Lot

44

MUNEKAZU: AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT IRON JIZAI OKIMONO OF A HUMAN SKELETON

In Fine Japanese Art

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Vienna

MUNEKAZU: AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT IRON JIZAI OKIMONO OF A HUMAN SKELETON
By Tomiki Isuke I (Art name Munekazu, 1853-1894), signed Munekazu
Japan, c. 1860-1880

Ingeniously constructed from well over 100 separately cast and hammered iron components, depicting the 206 human bones in a scale of 1:4 precisely, altogether meticulously jointed to present a fully articulated skeleton of unique anatomical accuracy, the skull furthermore finely incised in every detail including the fontanelle and with a hinged jaw opening to reveal a remarkably detailed interior. The signature MUNEKAZU is neatly incised on a rectangular silver plaque inlaid to back of pelvis.

HEIGHT 38.5 cm
WEIGHT 820.7 g

Condition: One arm has been replaced, otherwise in superb condition with a fine, naturally grown patina overall, some old wear and traces of use, presents exceptionally well.
Provenance: An old private estate in Philadelphia, USA. A British private collector, acquired from the above. Exhibited by Kevin Page Oriental Art at the 2019 LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair in London, United Kingdom, winner of the LAPADA Legends award in the Sculpture category.

With a fitted metal-mounted plexiglass stand.

Jizai okimono, known as Ingenious movable sculptures are the invention of Japanese metalsmiths trained in the manufacture of samurai armor. The Myochin family of armorers is credited with the first sculptures of this type in the eighteenth century. In relative peacetime, the demand for arms and armor, except for display purposes, had slowed. To meet the changes in demand, the Myochin expanded their repertoire into metalwork of a decorative and symbolic nature. Some see these articulated models as the culmination of the armorer's skill and imagination. Known as jizai okimono, (lit. 'free decorative object'), these intricate sculptures are a unique genre of Japanese sculptural art. Popular subjects for jizai okimono included insects, fish, crustaceans, snakes, and even dragons.

The present skeleton, however, is not only an outstanding example of such objects, but also the only known example of its kind. It was made by Tomiki Isuke I (1853-1894), who used the art name Munekazu and is sometimes called 'Myochin Munekazu', although his affiliation with the Myochin school remains unclear. At his studio in Kyoto he tutored Takase Kozan (1869-1934) and Muneyoshi (Tanaka Tadayoshi; ?-1958). Although clearly working in the Myochin style, visible in the exceptional quality of his jizai okimono, the artist also enjoyed some independence from the school, allowing him to create unique sculptures such as the present lot, during the second half of his career.

Auction comparison:
Compare an iron jizai okimono of a snake by Muneyoshi (Tanaka Tadayoshi, d. 1958), a student of Munekazu, 162.9 cm long, at Christie's, 18 April 2018, New York, lot 111 (sold for 250,000 USD). Compare also an iron jizai okimono of an eagle by Itao Shinjiro (1842-1911), another artist who worked independently from the Myochin school, at Christie's, 27 November 2018, Hong Kong, lot 3825 (sold for 6,700,000 HKD). Note that while these are some of the highest results achieved for mid-to-late 19th-century jizai okimono, neither the snake nor the eagle are unique, unlike the present skeleton.

Memento mori (Latin for 'remember that you die') is an artistic or symbolic trope acting as a reminder of the inevitability of death. The concept has its roots in the philosophers of classical antiquity and appeared in art and architecture from the medieval period onwards. The most common motif is a skull, often accompanied by one or more bones, or a complete skeleton. Often this alone is enough to evoke the trope, but sometimes other motifs such as a coffin, hourglass and wilting flowers were added to signify the impermanence of human life.

From Leonardo to Basquiat, the most important artists of the modern world were fascinated by the Memento Mori trope.

The same applies to the talented artist of the present lot Tomiki Isuke I (1853-1894) who like other Japanese artists drew influence from these earlier European 'Memento Mori' motifs. Some important examples include Kuniyoshi's famous triptych depicting the Monster Skeleton or Kawanabe Kyosai's Skeleton Musicians. Kyosai (1831-1889), a contemporary of the artist Tomiki Isuke I (1853-1894), in particular became fascinated by skeletons featuring them in several of his artworks, extending from orthodox pictures founded in the Kano-style to humorous and satirical pictures, full of wit, in the manner of ukiyo-e artist Kuniyoshi.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the skull mask of Citipati is a reminder of the eternal cycle of life and death. Furthermore, there is a mind training practice known as Lojong, the 'Four Contemplations to Cause a Revolution in the Mind'. The second of these four is the contemplation on impermanence and death. In particular, one contemplates that:

All compounded things are impermanent,
The human body is a compounded thing,
Therefore, death of the body is certain,
The time of death is uncertain and beyond our control.

There are a number of classic verse formulations of these contemplations meant for daily reflection to overcome our strong habitual tendency to live as though we will certainly not die today.

In Japanese Samurai culture, the influence of Zen Buddhist contemplation of death on indigenous culture can be gauged by the following quotation from the classic treatise on samurai ethics, the Hagakure:

“The Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one's mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done.”

In the annual appreciation of cherry blossom and fall colors, hanami and momijigari, it was philosophized that things are most splendid at the very moment just before their fall, and to aim to live and die in a similar fashion.

13% VAT will be added to the hammer price additional to the buyer's premium – only for buyers within the EU.

MUNEKAZU: AN EXCEPTIONALLY RARE AND HIGHLY IMPORTANT IRON JIZAI OKIMONO OF A HUMAN SKELETON
By Tomiki Isuke I (Art name Munekazu, 1853-1894), signed Munekazu
Japan, c. 1860-1880

Ingeniously constructed from well over 100 separately cast and hammered iron components, depicting the 206 human bones in a scale of 1:4 precisely, altogether meticulously jointed to present a fully articulated skeleton of unique anatomical accuracy, the skull furthermore finely incised in every detail including the fontanelle and with a hinged jaw opening to reveal a remarkably detailed interior. The signature MUNEKAZU is neatly incised on a rectangular silver plaque inlaid to back of pelvis.

HEIGHT 38.5 cm
WEIGHT 820.7 g

Condition: One arm has been replaced, otherwise in superb condition with a fine, naturally grown patina overall, some old wear and traces of use, presents exceptionally well.
Provenance: An old private estate in Philadelphia, USA. A British private collector, acquired from the above. Exhibited by Kevin Page Oriental Art at the 2019 LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair in London, United Kingdom, winner of the LAPADA Legends award in the Sculpture category.

With a fitted metal-mounted plexiglass stand.

Jizai okimono, known as Ingenious movable sculptures are the invention of Japanese metalsmiths trained in the manufacture of samurai armor. The Myochin family of armorers is credited with the first sculptures of this type in the eighteenth century. In relative peacetime, the demand for arms and armor, except for display purposes, had slowed. To meet the changes in demand, the Myochin expanded their repertoire into metalwork of a decorative and symbolic nature. Some see these articulated models as the culmination of the armorer's skill and imagination. Known as jizai okimono, (lit. 'free decorative object'), these intricate sculptures are a unique genre of Japanese sculptural art. Popular subjects for jizai okimono included insects, fish, crustaceans, snakes, and even dragons.

The present skeleton, however, is not only an outstanding example of such objects, but also the only known example of its kind. It was made by Tomiki Isuke I (1853-1894), who used the art name Munekazu and is sometimes called 'Myochin Munekazu', although his affiliation with the Myochin school remains unclear. At his studio in Kyoto he tutored Takase Kozan (1869-1934) and Muneyoshi (Tanaka Tadayoshi; ?-1958). Although clearly working in the Myochin style, visible in the exceptional quality of his jizai okimono, the artist also enjoyed some independence from the school, allowing him to create unique sculptures such as the present lot, during the second half of his career.

Auction comparison:
Compare an iron jizai okimono of a snake by Muneyoshi (Tanaka Tadayoshi, d. 1958), a student of Munekazu, 162.9 cm long, at Christie's, 18 April 2018, New York, lot 111 (sold for 250,000 USD). Compare also an iron jizai okimono of an eagle by Itao Shinjiro (1842-1911), another artist who worked independently from the Myochin school, at Christie's, 27 November 2018, Hong Kong, lot 3825 (sold for 6,700,000 HKD). Note that while these are some of the highest results achieved for mid-to-late 19th-century jizai okimono, neither the snake nor the eagle are unique, unlike the present skeleton.

Memento mori (Latin for 'remember that you die') is an artistic or symbolic trope acting as a reminder of the inevitability of death. The concept has its roots in the philosophers of classical antiquity and appeared in art and architecture from the medieval period onwards. The most common motif is a skull, often accompanied by one or more bones, or a complete skeleton. Often this alone is enough to evoke the trope, but sometimes other motifs such as a coffin, hourglass and wilting flowers were added to signify the impermanence of human life.

From Leonardo to Basquiat, the most important artists of the modern world were fascinated by the Memento Mori trope.

The same applies to the talented artist of the present lot Tomiki Isuke I (1853-1894) who like other Japanese artists drew influence from these earlier European 'Memento Mori' motifs. Some important examples include Kuniyoshi's famous triptych depicting the Monster Skeleton or Kawanabe Kyosai's Skeleton Musicians. Kyosai (1831-1889), a contemporary of the artist Tomiki Isuke I (1853-1894), in particular became fascinated by skeletons featuring them in several of his artworks, extending from orthodox pictures founded in the Kano-style to humorous and satirical pictures, full of wit, in the manner of ukiyo-e artist Kuniyoshi.

In Tibetan Buddhism, the skull mask of Citipati is a reminder of the eternal cycle of life and death. Furthermore, there is a mind training practice known as Lojong, the 'Four Contemplations to Cause a Revolution in the Mind'. The second of these four is the contemplation on impermanence and death. In particular, one contemplates that:

All compounded things are impermanent,
The human body is a compounded thing,
Therefore, death of the body is certain,
The time of death is uncertain and beyond our control.

There are a number of classic verse formulations of these contemplations meant for daily reflection to overcome our strong habitual tendency to live as though we will certainly not die today.

In Japanese Samurai culture, the influence of Zen Buddhist contemplation of death on indigenous culture can be gauged by the following quotation from the classic treatise on samurai ethics, the Hagakure:

“The Way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here or be there, imagining the most sightly way of dying, and putting one's mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done.”

In the annual appreciation of cherry blossom and fall colors, hanami and momijigari, it was philosophized that things are most splendid at the very moment just before their fall, and to aim to live and die in a similar fashion.

13% VAT will be added to the hammer price additional to the buyer's premium – only for buyers within the EU.

Fine Japanese Art

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§ 5) The auction buyer must pay the purchase price immediately upon acceptance of the bid (final and highest bid plus 25% surcharge, plus the value added tax applicable to the surcharge to the amount of 20%, or the added VAT on top of the final price, when a lot is highlighted accordingly in the auction catalog). The company may grant an auction buyer a term of payment for the purchase price in whole or in part when this has been formally applied for in writing before the auction.

 

§ 6) In the event of a term of payment, or any payment delay, in whole or in part, the company shall be entitled to charge default interest (12% p.a.) as well as storage charges (2.4% pf the final and highest bid per month commenced) after 14 days upon acceptance of the bid. The item purchased at auction shall be handed over exclusively upon full payment of the purchase price including all costs and charges accrued since the acceptance of the bid.

 

§ 7) The buyer should take acquired items into possession, as far as possible, immediately or after the end of the auction. Items which have been fully paid for shall be handed over in our show rooms in GALERIE ZACKE, MARIAHILFERSTRASSE 112, 1070 VIENNA. If a deferred purchase price is not paid within the set period, the company shall be entitled to auction the item again in order to recoup its claim from the defaulting auction buyer. In this case, the defaulting auction buyer shall be liable to the company for the total loss of commission incurred by the company due to the re-auctioning as well as for any default interest and storage charges.

 

§ 8) The company shall be entitled to a lien on all items of the buyer irrespective of whether the buyer bought them within the scope of an auction or in free sale or the company secured ownership of these items otherwise. This lien shall serve to secure all current and future, qualified, limited and unmatured claims to which the company is entitled and which result from all legal transactions concluded with the buyer.

 

§ 9) The items received for auction will be exhibited and may be viewed prior to the auction. In doing so, the company shall give everyone the opportunity to check the nature and the condition of the exhibited items to the extent deemed possible within the scope of the exhibition. Every bidder shall be deemed to act on its own behalf unless it provides a written confirmation saying that it acts as a representative or agent of a well-known principal. The company may refuse bids; this shall particularly apply if a bidder who is unknown to the company or with whom the company has no business connections yet does not provide a security deposit before the auction. However, in principle there shall be no claim to accept a bid. If a bid has been refused, the previous bid shall remain effective.

 

§ 10) The company’s experts evaluate and describe the items received for auction and determine the starting prices unless otherwise stated in the catalog or expert opinion. The information concerning production technique or material, state of preservation, origin, design and age of an item is based on published or otherwise generally accessible (scientific) findings concluded by the company’s expert with the necessary care and accuracy. The company shall warrant to the buyer according to §34-38 of the AGB (Terms and Conditions) that properties are correct provided that any complaints referring to this are made within 45 days after the auction day. Subsequent complaints shall be excluded in principle. The company shall not be liable for any further information in the catalog and expert opinion as well. This shall also apply to illustrations in the catalog. The purpose of these illustrations is to guide the potential buyer during the preview. They shall not be authoritative for the condition or the characteristics of the pictured item. The published condition reports shall only mention defects and damage affecting the artistic or commercial value significantly. Complaints concerning the price shall be excluded upon acceptance of the bid. The company reserves the right to amend the catalog online prior to the auction. These amendments shall also be made public orally by the auctioneer during the auction. In this case, the company shall be liable for the amendment only. All items offered may be checked prior to the auction. These items are used. Any claims for damages exceeding the liability named above and resulting from other material defects or other defects of the item shall be excluded. When making the bid, the bidder confirms that he/she has inspected the item prior to the auction and has made sure that the item corresponds to the description.

 

§ 11) If a customer is not able to participate in an auction personally, the company shall accept purchase orders. These orders may be placed in writing via mail, e-mail, fax, www.zacke.at or a third party bidding platform. In the case of a purchase order placed by phone or orally, the company shall reserve the right to make the performance dependent on a confirmation from the principal communicated in writing. Furthermore, the company shall not be liable for the performance of purchase orders. Equal purchase orders or live bids will be considered in the order of their receipt. Bids which below the estimate shall be exhausted completely. Bids which do not correspond to the increments determined by the company (see bidding increment table) will be rounded up to the next higher increment. The table of these increments can be sent upon request. The written bid (purchase order) must include the item, the catalog number and the offered top bid limit which is quoted as the amount of the acceptance of the bid without buyer’s commission and without taxes. Ambiguities shall be carried by the bidder. A purchase order which has already been placed may only be cancelled if the written withdrawal is received by the company at least 72 hours prior to the beginning of the auction.

 

§ 12) The company may refuse a purchase order without explanation or make its execution dependent on payment of a security deposit. In the event of an unsuccessful order, such a deposit will be reimbursed by the company within 5 working days. Processing of purchase orders is free of charge.

 

§ 13) Every seller shall in principle be entitled to withdraw the items offered for auction until the start of the auction. Therefore, it is impossible to assume liability or to give warranty for the actual offering.

 

§ 14) Paid items must be collected within 30 days after payment. Items which have not been collected may be re-offered without further communication at the starting price from the recent auction reduced by 50%. Items which have not been collected within 30 days after the auction or for which the company does not receive any proper shipping instructions stating the type of shipping and the address of dispatch (independent of a possibly placed purchase order) shall be stored at the owner’s risk. Furthermore, the company shall be entitled to store items which have been purchased at auction and paid but not collected at the buyer ś risk and expense, including the costs for an insurance, with a forwarding agency. It shall be understood that the provision concerning the re-auctioning of unpaid and paid but not collected items must also apply to items not exhibited or stored on the premises of the company. The ownership shall be transferred to the buyer at the time of handing over the issuing note.

 

§ 15) In the case of mixed lots with a starting price of less than EUR 350.00, the company shall not warrant for the completeness or correctness of the individual items within a mixed lot.

 

§ 16) A registration for a bid by telephone for one or several items shall automatically represent a bid at the estimate price of these items. If the company cannot reach a bidder by telephone, it will bid on behalf of this bidder up to the estimate price when the respective lot is up for auction.

 

§ 17) Payments made to the company by mistake (through the payer ś fault) (e. g. due to miscalculation of the exchange rate by the payer) or payments made to the company for the same invoice several times shall be compensated in form of a credit note for goods for an indefinite period of time. The repayment of such payments in cash shall be excluded.

 

§ 18) Certain auction lots may exist several times (multiples). In such a case, the auctioneer may accept a second, third or even more bids from the underbidder(s). In this case, the text in the catalog and not the illustration shall be exclusively binding with regard to the warranty.

 

§ 19) The company reserves the right to assign to the buyer all rights and obligations resulting from the contractual relationship between the company and the seller by way of a respective declaration, as well as to assign to the seller all rights and obligations resulting from the contractual relationship between the company and the buyer by way of a respective declaration, in each case in terms of a complete assignment of contract with the result that the contractual relationship - following the submission of the aforementioned declarations by the company – shall exclusively be between the seller and the buyer, all of which is in accordance with the basic model of the commission agreement. Buyers and sellers shall already now give their explicit consent to this contract assignment.

 

§ 20) The place of performance of the contract brought about between the company on the one hand and the seller as well as the buyer on the other hand shall be the place of business of the company. The legal relationships and contracts existing between the company, the sellers and the buyers shall be subject to Austrian law. The company, the sellers and the buyers shall agree to settle all disputes resulting from, concerning and in connection with this contract before the territorially competent court of Vienna.

 

§ 21) The export of certain art objects from Austria shall require a permit from the Bundesdenkmalamt [Federal Monuments Office]. The company will orally provide information about art objects for which such export permit will probably not be granted at the beginning of the auction.

 

§ 22) Whenever making a bid, whether personally or via an agent, in writing, online, telephone, or in any other way, the bidder fully and unconditionally accepts the Terms of Auction, the ‘Important Information’ section in the auction catalog, the Terms and Conditions (AGB) of Galerie Zacke, §1-48, the Fee Tariff, and the Bidding Increments table, all as published on www.zacke.at on the day of the auction.

See Full Terms And Conditions

Tags: Kawanabe Kyosai, Okimono, Ukiyo-e, Jizai Okimono