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Doll - Artifacts

Wood Kokeshi Doll Large immobile round head with 2 painted red circles on top, 2 faded green circles outside red ones, red petal shapes along hairline with black center fringe and side pieces, black eyebrows, eyes with upper lids, u-shaped nose, red mouth; turned cylindrical body with narrower center and two raised rings, painted red collar shape down front over 3 red stripes above rings (once painted green, now faded), 3 red stripes below rings and 3 red vertical lines at center bottom. On bottom are 4 rectangular holes where clamp would have held wood block in place, also black ink kanji: "Made by Hisaji (or Hisashi) Niiyama" and the number 231, 203 crossed out, "Japan" and "Made in Japan" stamped in English. From Miyagi prefecture, Yajiro region, (more well off than farmer artisan's) (photo #37, p. 94 shows this artist's kokeshi dolls). Characteristics are: neck is screwed into the body, rounded shoulders, defined waist, only upper lid of eyes are painted, squared U-shape nose, V-shaped neck. Valuable piece KOKESHI DOLLS: "Kokeshi are said to have originated in the Tohoku region in the hands of the lathe-craftsmen who lived a gypsy life in the mountains of that region, seeking good wood material for their craft. Eventually, about the middle of the Edo Period, these craftsmen settled down near the many spas that abounded in that region, and began to make...kokeshi...may be related to the household god." from p. 26, The Folk Toys of Japan by Misako Shishido "They date from the late Edo period when both leisure time and affluence in farming communities became not just a sought-after dream. Essentially a doll, the kokeshi are believed to have their origins in the practice of spiritualist religion... Sumptuary laws surely had a creativehand in the first kokeshi's form taking. Probably it was a roughly human form turned on a handpowered wood lathe...Each is made from a single piece? of finely turned and finished hardwood. Wood varies widely but the most generally used type is the native dogwood which is both fine-grained and light in tone...Probably the most well-known, Naruko-no-kokeshi come from a small community located in the northwest of the prefecture and is one of main entry points for Kurikoma National Park. An abundance of hot springs makes kokeshi turning all the more lucrative a winter pastime." p. 21, Mingei: Japan's Enduring Folk Arts by Amaury Saint-Gilles "The old style dolls were first crafted more than 300 years ago, perhaps during the Tokugawa Shogunate period. They are all female, and never include arms, legs, hands or feet. They are considered a "cottage" industry during the long winter months of the Tohoku district of Japan: Yamagata, Aomori, Miyagi, Fukushima and Akita Prefectures in Norther part of Honshu Island. While her huspand held the knife to whittle the long slim body with a round head, the wife pulled the pulley on the turning lathe mechanism which produced a gutteral sound pronounced as "kokeshi". Sizes vary from 1/2 inch to 5 feet tall. Each doll maker with dyes and paint would imbue his dolls with certain facial expressions, hair style, and a design of kimono and obi. He placed his signature on the bottom of each day's output. The skills and designs were passed down from one generation to the next, so a collector can identify them by prefecture, district, village and maker. The Naruka Hot Springs area of Miyagi Prefecture has developed a thriving village industry since 1945. They use modern equipment for the carving and employ many people to paint. The new style competes with the old style in popularity there. The new style kokeshi dolls reflect the coeducation movement in modern Japan. Boy and girl dolls sold in pairs became popular and have been mass produced and exported all over the world. Characters out of folktales and literature are available...Almost all of the modern dolls have moveable heads. Only Yamagata old-style dolls have moveable heads. Old-style doll collectors in Japan have formed a national society organization which promotes the study of the art. Many of the members are well-to-do artists, scholars, and business people. They visit the more remote mountain villages, buying, exchanging and publish their findings and photos in scholarly journals. It was my privilege to become an honorary member during 1952-54." Georgia Sealoff (donor)
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