This is an exceptionally beautiful antique Japanese doll. The face of the doll
is small but delicate. It has the look of a Noh mask with painted skinny
eyes and a nose that is extra high. This indicates that the doll was
intended to be a beautiful woman. The color on her lips is almost all faded leaving a green dot on her lower lip. The green lip color (mixture of red and black) that I first thought as a sign of a spooky Obake creature was actually a fashion trend during
the Genroku era in early Edo (1603-1868). The face has a beautiful age patina; it
appears white depending on the lighting but it has a brownish/yellowish
Her elaborate clothing is somehow mixture of the attires of courtiers and court ladies from the Heian period (794-1192) and later. This style of attire is still worn today by the Imperial family for special ceremonies. The gown
is delicately detailed with embroideries and couching stitches with the
background of crepe silk (light rusty brown in salmon pink). We gave her long silk hair and an old fan.
The #12 photo shows her head prior to the work. No glue was used. She is
secured on a Takeda stand (with a window in the front) in a very sturdy
manner; the heavy sticks go through from her feet to the
stands; the work skillfully hides the nail behind the geta sandal
(geta is partially chiseled out).
The high wooden sandal (geta, ashida) on this doll is a peculiar
combination with the elegant attire. We were very puzzled who this doll may be and came up with Shizuka Gozen who was Yoshitsune’s lover ; high geta is associated with the image of Yoshitsune (Minamoto family) or his retainer, Benkei.
We chose #3. If you are interested in the store of Shizu, please read
the following The Rising Power of Samurai.
The condition is almost perfect but missing bows on one side. The
brownish stain on back of the sleeve is old glue. It has some color loss
in the gown but it faded evenly on the front and back. Her clothing is tailored in the same meticulous way that we have seen
in some Takeda dolls or well-made Hina dolls. Note: the female Takeda
dolls that we had seen in photos were quite different from the male dolls; very small movements and little facial expression. The size of this doll is not large,
approx. 13 inches tall with high geta on Takeda ningyo (doll) stand.
The Rising Power of Samurai:
The Dance of Shizu (Shizu no Mai) took place approx. 800 years ago when
the Minamoto (Genji family) was regaining power back from the Taira family
(Heike). Yoshitsune (Minamoto) was on the run from Yoritomo (oldest half
brother) who became increasingly suspicious and probably jealous of
Shizu was a well-known Shirabayashi dancer (they danced in men's custumes) in Kyoto when she met
Yoshitsune (Minamoto). Yoshitsune had just returned to Kyoto as a dashing
young hero (this quickly changed to fugitive) after winning the major
battles against the Heike that lead to the end of the Heian era.
Yoritomo captured her and while in captivity, Shizu gave birth to the
son of Yoshitsune. The baby was quickly killed by Yoritomo. There was an
order (by Yoritomo) to dance in front of Yoritomo and his clan which came
rightafter the death of her baby.
There, Shizuka Gozen boldly sang the famous song, "Yoshino-yama …,
Shizuya, Shizu…. Odamai no…" while she danced. The poem is translated
into, "I saw you last vanishing into the snowy mountain path of Mt.
Yoshino. How I wish to go back to the old times when you used to call me,
Shizu-ya, Shizu, repeatedly so often, just as the thread of Shizu (in this
case, old shizucloth that was worn by poor people) repeatdly spun around
the Odamaki(spool?)." It was a love poem for Yoshitsune and you can
imagine how angry Yoritomo became. The stories from this era were told by the traveling monks with music instruments called "biwa", recorded in books and played many times on the stage of Noh, Jyoruri, Kabuki, etc.