Japanese textiles dolls ceramics kanzashi by Asian Art by Kyoko

Antique Japanese Aristocrat Doll from Edo Period

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Dolls: Pre 1900: Item # 613211
Asian Art By Kyoko
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Old Japanese doll resembling the Kuge (aristocrat) from the Heian period (794-1185), 16 inches tall. This doll was probably one of the zuishin (imperial guard) dolls for the Hina Festival (Girl’s Day in Japan). His long face mostly resembles the Kyoho-bina which is the imperial pair dolls from the mid Edo period (1603-1868). Considering the quality, size and time (late Edo), this doll must have been made for someone special.

The costume of hina dolls were all copied from the attires worn in the Heian Imperial Court (794-1185). There was one group of hina dolls in the 1700s only made for the higher ranking Kuge (and a few high ranking officials) in Kyoto. They were exact copies of the emperor and empress from the Heian Court. The clothes on the dolls (later called Yusoku-bina) were made by two families, Takakura and Yamashina, who were both assigned to supply the clothes to the imperial families in Kyoto. The fabrics were woven there (Nishijin textile district in Kyoto) with doll sized designs in silk and gold thread. They must have set an example to later doll makers.

Japanese family crests were have said to come from the designs of the garments worn by the aristocrats from the Heian period. Aoi leaves (hollyhock, photo #7) woven with the strips of gold here in this doll was the sacred crest of Kamo Shrines in Kyoto. It was later adopted by the Tokugawa family (whose 15 generations reigned over the Edo period) as their family crest. The crest of Iyeyasu (first Tokugawa Shogun) has three aoi leaves in the circle. Other designs on the pants (doll’s) and "hirao" look very much like the crest of Nobunaga (Oda) and a half kiku mon (imperial crest).

The torn fabric on the back (with a string) indicates that the doll was probably carrying arrows once. The last photo is from the annual Kyoto Jidai Matsuri Festival. The costume of two escort men has the clothes in same style. The costume on our doll, I think, is called "kari ginu", the hunting outfit for the aristocrats. The colors were less restricted and has designs on them. All the attachments, hat (many repairs), fan (new), and stool are later additions. The bow is pretty new and will not be included. There were some brittle areas in the gown where creases were; both sides of the sleeves and other small areas were repaired by a textile expert. Some damages were left untouched.