A spectacular articulated hawk sculpture brought £121,250 ($184,807) to Bonhams London yesterday (May 16), leading the auction house's sale of fine Japanese art. The circa 1894 sculpture, attributed to Itao Shinjiro - a talented metal worker who also produced articulated eagles, dragons and cray fish - sold with a 21.3% increase on its £100,000 top estimate.
The museum-grade piece is extremely rare. Only two other articulated hawks have hitherto been recorded - one resides in a private collection in France, the other remains on permanent display at the Tokyo National Museum.
The wrought iron hawk is able to imitate the movements of its real-life cousins: its head can be turned 180 degrees, its limbs and claws are fully moveable, and its wings are capable of both expansion and contraction.
Of all the decorative and collectible items that were brought into Europe from Japan, articulated animals and birds have the least traceability. Documentary evidence pertaining to their manufacture is extraordinarily rare.
Despite obscure origins, however, these "kusshin" - which literally translates as "bending and stretching" - were extremely popular among Victorian Britons, matching an Orientalist trend in design that took hold during the late 19th century.
Unusual and unique items, such as the present Shinjiro-made hawk, have the power to capture collectors' imaginations, making remarkable centre pieces as well as provoking discussion and intrigue.
Here at Paul Fraser Collectibles, we currently have this remarkable collection of Albert Pierrepoint memorabilia in stock - sure to incite considerable interest and debate.
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