Many were made by the armourers and swordmakers whose primary clientele had disappeared with the abolition of the Samurai class in 1876.
Woolley & Wallis (25% buyer’s premium) has offered a number of good examples in recent years including a jizai okimono of a dragon fish (£12,000 in 2019) and an unusually large snake signed Myochin (£40,000 in 2020).
Both are typical subjects. However, only a small number of iron articulated hawks is recorded.
This 9in (23cm) high raptor, sold in Salisbury on July 27 for £42,000 (estimate £25,000-30,000), is constructed from numerous hammered iron plates that allow elements such as the head and wings to move.
The eyes are inlaid in gilt with black pupils, the beak worked in shibuichi while beneath the wing feathers are concealed numbers.
It came for sale from the collection of the late Hubert René Joseph Georges Faure (1919-2020) whose first wife Elizabeth ‘Bessie’ de Cuevas was a great-granddaughter of John D Rockefeller.
A similar jizai okimono bird of prey by Myochin Kiyoharu is on display at Tokyo National Museum, while Bonhams sold a spectacular 16in (41cm) example – the ‘Adjustable Iron Statue of Hawk’ which had won a silver medal at the 1894 Spring Exhibition of the Japan Art Association – for £100,000 in May 2013.
River boat design
Another fine Meiji period work of art was offered by Hutchinson Scott (20% buyer’s premium) in Skipton on July 30.
This small 5in (12cm) maki-e lacquer box or kobako is shaped as a river boat and finely decorated to the base with jewelled leaf work decoration and a signature.
The form is unusual although Bonhams has sold a couple of similar pieces in recent years: an unsigned gold hiramaki-e and takamaki-e box with a cormorant perched on its straw-covered roof (£1750, Knightsbridge 2018) and another with a cover formed as sheaths of rice signed for Ikeda Taishin (1825-1903), ($2805, New York 2019.
The example offered in Yorkshire went well above its £200-300 guide at £3600.