Japanese jizai okimono dragon makes $100,000

A jizai okimono dragon made in Japan in the 19th century has sold for $100,000, up 150% on its $40,000 estimate.

Jizai okimono translates to “fully articulated”.

The piece is created from hundreds of tiny iron sections, which are able to move independently of one another.

Jinzai dragon Christies

This jinzai okimono model dragon is fully articulated 

It was among the star lots of the Inquiring Mind: American Collecting of Japanese & Korean Art sale hosted by Christie’s in New York on April 25.

Christie’s head of Japanese art, Takaaki Murakami, said: “For me, what makes this dragon so special is its intricacy.

“The craftsmanship in the head and body is richer than in most other dragons of the same period. It’s also made up of more parts than other jizai okimono, which allows it a greater range of movement.”

These extraordinary works of art became popular towards the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), when Japan coalesced into one nation after millennia of feudal rule.  

All of a sudden the nation’s famously skilful blacksmiths found themselves with nothing to do, as swords and armour were no longer needed in anything like the same quantities.

Some hit upon the idea of creating these highly detailed rendering of animals and insects.

These proved very popular both with the Japanese aristocracy and with buyers abroad.

A highly lifelike jizai okimono butterfly, made by modern master Kamiyama Masahiro (born 1955), realised $47,500.

It’s constructed from gold, silver and shakudo, a gold and copper alloy traditionally used to decorate samurai swords known as katana.  

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