Japanese snake slithers beside maps and cup

A fully articulated snake, an example of a jizai okimono, sold for £41,000 at Ramsay Cornish.

Alongside two key early maps of colonial North America (see News, ATG No 2422) the sale at Ramsay Cornish (20% buyer’s premium) in Edinburgh on December 7 was distinguished by five-figure bids for two rare items.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

One, an English (probably London) delft caudle cup which is a textbook survivor from the mid 17th century, also featured in last week’s Review of the Year (ATG No 2422).

The other, shown here, an iron model of a fully articulated snake, is a striking example of a jizai okimono – lifelike, articulated animal figures popular in the last decades of Edo-period and Meiji Japan.

Its body is constructed from numerous hammered iron plates simulating scales that allow it to bend from head to tail. The head with gilt eyes has a hinged jaw opening to reveal fangs and a forked tongue. Unusually large at over 4ft (1.35m) long, the model was also in superb condition. It was signed close to the underside of the jaw.

This was one of a number of lots in the sale that came by descent from Sir Henry Steele (1879-1963), a former Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Estimated at £1000-2000, it ultimately sold at £41,000 to an American private buyer.