An extraordinary, fully-articulated iron dragon will be the highlight of Bonhams' Fine Japanese Art sale, taking place on November 11 in London. The 133cm long creature is estimated to sell for £120,000-130,000.
The dragon is a stunning example of jizai okimono: naturalistic and fully-articulated iron animal figures whose bodies and limbs can be moved, replicating their counterparts in real life.
According to Bonhams' description, the dragon on offer has a long serpentine and undulating body, forged with numerous scales that have been joined inside the body. The head, mouth, claws and ears are each constructed of moving parts, while its leg joints can turn 180 degrees.
Although little is known about the origin and development of jizai okimono as works of art, this dragon's provenance is confirmed as having been created in the Edo Period (18th-19th century) by the Myochin School.
Historically, members of the Myochin Family were supreme armour makers and famous for their excellent iron forging and hammer work. However, there was less demand for the manufacture of armour during the long and peaceful Edo period.
Instead, the family used their craftsmanship and expertise to create other objects, including jizai okimono.
Following the Government's policy of promoting industry and exporting decorative art, many jizai okimono found their way to the West - and have been of source of fascination for collectors ever since.
The dragon offered for sale by Bonhams is one of only three known to exist that are similar in size and workmanship. This is rightly billed as an outstanding example that demonstrates the enviable standard of forged iron work at the time.
Watch this space for upcoming news on Bonhams' Fine Japanese Art auction.