Japanese folk art, farmer's clay doll: Ooishi Kuranosuke, a historical hero as a leader of the 47 Ronin (samurai without their master) who avenged their master's death and then all committed Seppuku suicide. Artist signed and dated (in 1942) on the back. Measurements are: 12 3/4"h x 7 3/4"w at the widest
All the clay dolls are somehow originated from the Fushimi clay doll of the Kyoto area.
Fushimi dolls were originally sold as souvenirs to the pilgrims on the road of Fushimi Kaidou from Kyoto to Fushimi Inari Shrine in the early Edo period (1600-1868). By the end of 19th century, these dolls were made all over Japan. 90 percent of the Edo population were farmers who could not afford nor were allowed to have hina dolls dressed in silk brocades. When hina dolls were still very limited to the wealthy in the Meiji to Taisho period, these clay dolls were for the regular people. Roof tile makers had a large part in the process of making clay dolls. But many of these dolls were made by off-season farmers often involving the entire family for extra income. They were displayed for the Sekku Hina Festival time for the boys and girls. Displaying the dolls was the parent’s prayer for the well being and survival of their children when medicine was not only less advanced but not available. At one point, there were over 150 regions making clay dolls. There were 50 kilns in Fushimi in the early 1800’s (only one left now).
These handmade clay dolls could not survive the competition to sophisticated Hakata dolls which were the only clay dolls to succeed commercially. They became forgotten when hina and other cloth dolls became available to the general population. Many were being thrown away after the earthquake damages or others. Some very encouraging and impressive attempts are being made by some people in Japan to save and revive these dolls.