Articulated Iron Crayfish attributed to Myochin

Value (2003) | $15,000 Auction

Guest: My father collected arms and armor and this was always one of my favorite items.

Appraiser: Well, there's a great deal of connection with his collecting and what this object is.This object was probably made by a family called the Myochin and the Myochin were armorists that used to make armor. But it turns out, in the middle part of the 19th century, the feudal system collapsed in Japan and there was no need for these people to do anything. And what they started to do was make tourist objects like this. And this crayfish that you have here is actually made out of iron. And it's completely articulated, totally movable and absolutely naturalistic. This is an exact duplicate of the original little animal... with all these movable parts, and as realistic as it conceivably can be. And in fact, one of the things you notice is that color. That color is actually an artificial color that's been put on it to make it look even more natural. And then, if you reverse the item, and you see the bottom of the piece, you can see all the little articulations and movable parts that would be on a live lobster, but in this case recreated in iron. It's just a spectacular work. Very, very finely done. And one reason why I attribute it to the Myochin is the Myochin were so good that it doesn't seem likely too many other people could have done one of this quality. Now, of course, we get to the inevitable question. What did you think it was worth?

Guest: I don't know. Yes, I'm not sure.

Appraiser: Well, I sold another piece that was not attributable to the Myochin. It wasn't as fine a quality. And it was a completely articulated dragon and dragons are a much, much more common item. I sold that for $10,000.

Guest: Hmm.

Appraiser: I would say a conservative price on this one would be $15,000.

Guest: Oh... well, great.

Appraiser: It's just an incredible piece of workmanship. But all we need for this one is a little bit of cocktail sauce.

Guest: Yes.

Appraisal Details

Tremont Auctions
Newton, MA
Appraised value (2003)
$15,000 Auction
Chicago, IL (July 26, 2003)
19th Century

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