A beautiful example of late Meiji craftsmanship, this copper crab is a miniature amazement, its close observation of the natural world stunningly distilled, its articulated joints lending a sense of life. It’s a particular joy to hold in one’s hand. Measures 5” sideways, which is how one measures a crab.
The manufacture of articulated metal animals originates in the Japanese metalwork tradition. Japanese sword smiths and armor craftsmen had lost their market after the Meiji Restoration in 1868 when the Samurai class was abolished. Using their skills, these craftsmen began making articulated metal sculptures such as crabs, shrimps, carp, snakes and insects: their uncanny resemblance to their originals in nature delighted and attracted their new customers. These schools of craftsmen are called the Myouchin-Ha or the Myouchin School artists and the figures they made were called the Jizai Okimono in Japanese.
Judging from the workmanship and patina of the piece, we would date it circa 1900 (late Meiji to early Taisho in Japan).