Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jizai Okimono: The Japanese Art of Articulated Iron Animal Figures

This lovely 5 3/4" articulated copper & bronze Mantis (at the Walters in Baltimore) is the work of an anonymous metalworker in 19th Century Japan (or Edo period).

This is the Art of Jizai Okimono- an art that emerged after the Samurai class was outlawed in the mid 1870's.  The Myochin armorers made the battle clothing for the samurai, and when the class was abolished they needed to put their skills to other uses- this being the most artistic.

Most pieces are forged iron, but also bronze, copper & ivory- and most tend to be small insects & animals, sometimes very large Dragon figures.

Here's a lovely snake I was outbid on a few months back- it went for $17,500: Snake

Recently the Tokyo National Museum did a show on this particular art form- worth a look, as a collection like this exists nowhere: Collection.

If you're interested in this general area, but can't find (or afford) the Japanese originals- there are other options.   In the mid 20th Century some makers in Spain started making some animals figures of very high quality in cast silver- I have a Crayfish available for sale on my website....and have recently sold a crab.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Practical Luxury: The Gentleman's Knife

In the antiques biz the need for a knife is constant (cutting open boxes, opening envelopes, cutting string, peeling veneers...quite endless)- so I clearly carry one.

You, reader- what do you carry?  Probably nothing, right...?  Time to reconsider.  Knives are not simply objects for the kitchen, or for Rambo- they can be works of art, but with great function.

Over 10 years ago I bought my first Chris Reeve Sebenza-and I am now a devoted follower of Mr. Reeve's titanium folding knives.

In the 'Gentleman's Knife' category I would choose these two- one for evening, one for day.

The Mnandi ($350-$650) - not quite 6 1/2" total length- of titanium and choices of veneer- this is my top choice for carrying while suited up.  While I prefer simple veneers like blackwood or rosewood- the Mammoth Ivory Bark version is stunning (IF you can find one...or wait a year if ordered custom).

The Small Sebenza ($330-850)- not quite 7" total length, also of titanium.  This one is a bit larger overall than the Mnandi, and is my daytime knife...very utilitarian!

Most owners of Chris Reeve knives collect them...and the more unusual and rarer model will set you back- but some are beauties, like these.

You can get as fancy as you want- but there is a restrained simplicity even in the elaborate models of Sebenzas & Mnandis, which is why I prefer them.

Like any luxury item- find the right thing for your lifestyle, research it, and BUY THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD- and you'll never be disappointed,  promise.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The National Gallery of Art in DC hosts Archimboldo: Nature and Fantasy running through January 9, 2011.

Giuseppe Archimboldo can you believe it?  This is the 16th Century!!! and he's painting profiles of people using fruits and vegetables as elements in his design...

or chicken wings...

As much fantasy as Piero Fornasetti offered us in the 1950's-60's.......

he also recognized the master, no?