Kirsten's Corner

Articulated Bronze Meiji Era Okimono Crab


This wonderful bronze crab is fully articulated, with over 50 moving parts, making it incredibly lifelike. Each joint in the crab’s legs is moveable, and its claws open and close like those of a real crab. For added charm, even the crab’s eyeballs move from side to side. The surface of the bronze is textured like a crustacean, with etchings on the crab’s chest that are true to life while also emphasizing the artistic nature of the creature. The Japanese signature of the maker can be found etched into the bottom of figure. 

The Meiji period in Japan spanned from 1868 to 1912. The Meiji period was a time of great social and economic transformation for Japan. In a very short time, Japan moved from an isolated feudal society to its modern form. Throughout the Meiji era there was an intense drive to modernize and keep up with Western advances. However, this drive was matched by the desire to resist foreign influences. Once the Japanese assimilated these Western aspects, they formed a new but distinctly Japanese modern society. The affects of this touched all areas of life, but perhaps can be most prominently seen in the art of the Meiji era.

Okimono translates as “decorative object” and is the Japanese word for small carvings or figurines that often depict animals, humans, and mythological beasts. The artists who made these artifacts were once employed as armor and weaponry makers. But the Meiji era shifted Japan into a time of peace, leading to the collapse of the feudal system, and making armor craftsmen obsolete. The artisans used their skills to instead create okimono with intricate articulation, which could then be sold as souvenirs to Western tourists. The small-scale pieces from this era evoke Japan’s national traditions and aesthetics. In addition, they offer insight to the everyday tasks and duties of daily life during the Meiji era.

Cast in solid bronze, the crab measures 9 1/2” x 4 1/2” x 2”. 

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