Length: 25 cm including antennae
Signed: Myōchin Munenaga
The iron prawn is constructed of numerous hammered plates, jointed inside the body; the claws open, the body bends and the eyes, antennae, limbs and fins move. The details are finely carved.
The earliest known jizai okimono is a dragon bearing the signature of Myōchin Muneaki and dated 1713. The Myōchin were armor makers who excelled in iron forging and hammer work. They are thought to have produced jizai okimono in the peaceful time of the mid-Edo period. In fact, as the demand for armor diminished markedly during the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Myōchin artists turned to the production of other forged iron items such as tea ceremony kettles, boxes, sword guards and jizai okimono.
Jizai okimono are realistically shaped figures of animals. Their bodies and limbs are articulated, and can be moved like real animals. Among these figures, we can find models of dragons, birds, fishes, snakes, lobsters, crabs and insects. Prawns by Munenaga are of the highest quality, as he specialised in producing this particular creature.
The term “jizai okimono” seems to be quite modern: In the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition the craftsman Itao Shinjiro showed an articulated piece which was described as kusshin jizai tsubasa no okimono (an okimono with wings that move in and out freely) and the word jizai is seen again in this context on the storage box for an articulated dragon purchased by Tokyo National Museum in 1911. The only known Edo-period box inscription referring to one (a small dragon) calls it a bunchin (paperweight).
Inventory Nr: 1648