A JAPANESE MYOCHIN SCHOOL IRON ARTICULATED MODEL OF A SNAKE, JIZAI OKIMONO
Realistically modelled, the very long and fully articulated body constructed of a multitude of triangular hammered plates simulating scales, the head with a hinged jaw opening to reveal a movable forked tongue, the eyes in gilt and with white metal pupils, signed Muneyoshi underneath the jaw, 124cm.
See the British Museum, acc. no.HG.207 for a comparable iron snake signed Muneyoshi and described as made by a later member of the Myochin family of armour makers.
When the Meiji restoration of 1868 forbade samurai from openly wearing swords, metalwork artists had to
find alternative markets to avoid bankruptcy. Some turned towards producing everyday objects for the upper
classes such as the Komai family, and others specialised in making okimono: ornaments for display. Jizai
okimono are a subcategory of fully articulated metal sculptures, often depicting animals. A feat of ingenuity,
this snake's lifelike appearance must have made it an attractive souvenir for a wealthy tourist in Japan at the
turn of the century.