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Japanese Dolls

The creation of human-like dolls, or ningyo, in Japan, is one that can be traced back to Neolithic times. Ancient Japanese artisans created doll-like objects for funerary ceremonies, sacrificial practices, and eventually for play and religious reasons. Early records of humanoid figures being used for ceremonial practices are evidenced in archeological findings dating back to 8000 to 200 B.C.

By the 11th century, dolls were popular objects of play by small girls and women as visible through the classic literature, "Tales of Genji." By the 17th century Edo period, dolls were becoming increasingly popular and were purchased as gifts and decoration for the wealthy of Japan. These dolls took the shape of geisha, samurai, emperors, empresses, and everyday people. They were often made of wood, gofun, a variety of textiles, and human or silk hair. Over time, Japanese dolls became more and more elaborate and are still widely collected today for display.


Quick Facts

  • Every year the Japanese throw a doll festival on March 3 called “hinamatsuri." This is also called “Girl’s Day." This developed from the belief that these dolls captured bad spirits, so in order to protect their children, the Japanese would later send dolls out to sea and then bring the dolls back to a temple to be burned
  • Some Japanese dolls are created in life size. Iki-ningko in particular are famous for being hyper-realistic to the point of shocking viewers
  • Japanese dolls were and are still usually created with very minimalistic facial features. This aesthetic goes far back in history, and is believed to be so that one might preserve some anonymity to the dolls and anyone might identify with the doll

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Sellers Who Sell Japanese Dolls


Signens Kunstauktionen

Signens Kunstauktionen

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Matthew Bullock Auctioneers

Nagel Auction

Nagel Auction