Japanese textiles dolls ceramics kanzashi by Asian Art by Kyoko

Large Antique Japanese Hina Dolls, The Imperial Dolls

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Dolls: Pre 1920: Item # 561415
Asian Art By Kyoko
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Los Angeles
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Beautiful Meiji(1868-1912) Japanese hina ningyo (dolls), 20 inch empress doll and 17 inch emperor doll. The Hina Festival in Japan takes place every March 3rd. It is a day of celebration for the well being of every girl in the family. In earlier days, people were more susceptible to natural disasters or diseases, and in order to keep evil spirits away, this day was spent giving offerings to God. This custom was originally adopted from the 7th century, Chinese ceremony that took place on the beach. The Japanese word “Ningyo” (doll) was written on paper, which means, "human" and "shape". The human shaped papers were thrown into the ocean so that the “evil spirits” would be swept away by the ocean currents.

Displaying the emperor and empress dolls during the festival began sometime in the early Edo period (1603 - 1868) while the other dolls (ladies-in-waiting, musicians, guards and servants) were added later. The set of hina dolls was also chosen at the time of marriage among aristocrats, Samurai and Daimyo classes during the Edo period, and were also incorporated into the bridal trousseau. Generations of Hina dolls were often featured with famous families in magazine publications or displayed in museums. These dolls can supply us with precise history of Edo and Meiji (1868-1912) hina dolls. They were so well preserved with excellent written records (where and when these dolls were sent out to and for whose wedding or birth) and the names of the doll makers. Hina dolls were also not exempted from the Tokugawa Shogunate's sumptuary laws which restricted the size of the dolls. However, the doll makers compensated by adding greater detail and luxury to the dolls which are now called Keshi-bina.

The empress doll is approx. 20 inches tall from the tatami stand to the tip of her crown, a little over 12 inches tall without the crown and stand. Over all, she appears bigger than the actual heigth and is round (thick) from all angles with 5 large padded layers in her back. The head of this empress doll is beautifully carved round with a little age patina on gofun (ground oyster shell) finish on her face. Her hair is original human hair which is brittle and it shows a round head (painted in black) under the crown. Most of the dolls from this period have already lost their original human hair. You may want to fix the shape of the hair on this doll (gently by hand) into a better shape before you place the crown. It is best to keep the original hair (we think) at its best if sending the head to a well qualified doll maker in Japan is not an option. She is truly a beautiful work of art.

The emperor is 17 inches in height from the bottom of the tatami stand to the tip of his hat (excluding the thin piece on his hat). He is carrying an old sword, a miniature replica of a Samurai sword. There is an engraved dragon on the metal blade (kid’s quality metal). The lacquer (nashi-ji, pear skin finish) on the saya case has damages on one side (not shown in the photos) and a cap is missing. His head is larger than the empress doll; his face is exactly the same (with the empress doll) and hair is original human hair. Beautiful brocades appears to be hand woven and very little color loss on both custumes. Their custumes looks better than the photos. The labels at the bottom (on both dolls) are old (yellow/brown color) and read that the dolls were made in Kyoto, size number 1 (biggest), Yakihi (artist?) and were offered by the Iga-ya Hina Ningyo (dolls) Store. These are top quality dolls among this kind and one of the biggest hina sets that we own. The dimensions of each tatami stand are 12 5/8 x 8 x 2 inches.