Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Articulated iron snake

Articulated iron snake

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1750 to 1800 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Myochin Munenobu (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hammered iron, articulated and gilded

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Representational sculpture of animals and insects had been known in Japan from the middle of the Edo period (1600-1868), when bronze figures had been made for display in the tokonoma, the alcove in a Japanese house where works of art were displayed. These items were produced by traditional armour makers, or by those who made the decorative fittings for swords.

The Myochin school of armour makers specialised in jizai - lifelike articulated figures of animals. Jizai are realistically shaped figures of animals made from iron, copper, shibuichi (copper and silver alloy) and shakudo (copper and gold alloy). Their bodies and limbs are articulated, and can be moved like real animals. Among these ornamental figures, models of birds, fishes, snakes, lobsters, crabs and insects, as well as imaginary beings such as dragons, are common.


Physical description

Articulated iron snake J. jizai. Signed 'Myochin Munenobu' under the snake's chin.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1750 to 1800 (made)


Myochin Munenobu (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Hammered iron, articulated and gilded

Marks and inscriptions

Myochin Munenobu; c.1750-1800. Signed under the snake's chin.


Length: 165.1 cm

Object history note

Jahn Bequest

Descriptive line

Ornamental figure of a snake, wrought iron, articulated and gilded, Japan, mid 18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hull-Grundy, A. Japanese Articulated Iron Animals. Oriental Art. 1958, IV, No.4. fig.3.

Labels and date

Wrought iron
Japan; mid 18th century

In the figure of a snake, signed 'Miochin Muneobu'. [07/1994]




Hammered; Gilding


Metalwork; Ironwork


East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.