Japanese jizai okimono dragon to make $40,000?

A Japanese jizai okimono dragon is set to cross the block at Christie’s.

The term jizai okimono refers to a fully articulated model.  

They became popular at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868), when centuries of feudal rule came to an end and Japan coalesced into a unified nation.  

Dragon jinzai christies

Every part of the dragon can move independently 

As a result, many highly skilled armourers found themselves out of a job.

In response, some began using their considerable skills to craft exquisite models of animals and insects.

These became popular with the new aristocracy and also with buyers abroad.

The present lot is cast in iron and is marked under the jaw "Myochin Munenobu", indicating it was constructed by Munenobu of the Myochin school - a family of armourers founded in Edo (now Tokyo) in the 12th century.

It displays extraordinary detailing. The eyes are lit up with a layer of gilt and the scales are beautifully carved.  

Takaaki Murakami, head of Japanese art at Christie’s New York, comments: “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.”

It looks set to make $30,000-40,000 when it sells as part of the Inquiring Mind: American Collecting of Japanese & Korean Art sale in New York on April 25.

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