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Japanese Sculptures

The first-ever Japanese sculptures were made of clay in prehistoric Jomon period Japan. Some of the first known sculptural figures made by the ancient Japanese are the dogu and haniwa. Both styles are believed to have been used for rituals and buried with the dead.

Japanese dogu sculptures are shaped in a vaguely humanoid form with large, bug-like eyes and are ornately decorated with textures implying garments. These sculptures display a very distinct aesthetic sensibility towards stylization and patterning that is unique from Western, Chinese, or Korean influences. Similar to the dogu, haniwa sculptures more closely resemble real people.

Other early Japanese sculptures appear to have first and foremost served religious ceremonial purposes for either Buddhist practices or animistic Shinto rites. By the Edo period, sculptures of animals, people, historical figures, and mythical beasts were largely secular and popularized as not only objects within the home, but also as decorative accessories for garments.


Quick Facts

  • Historians estimate that the dogu were created from as early as 16,000 B.C. The most common belief is that sculpture and ceramic making first originated in mainland Asia and made its influence into Japan through trade
  • The hunter-gatherer lifestyle is very evident through the study of ancient Japanese sculpture. Sculptures were overall very small, likely for quickness and portability. However, as the culture became more sedentary, the Japanese began making larger and bulkier objects
  • Early Japanese sculptures were rooted strongly in religion and usually made for indoor use or within shrines. However, as sculptural practices became more secular, Japanese artists embraced the idea of outdoor and public sculpture and installations

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Sellers Who Sell Japanese Sculptures


Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Palm Beach Modern Auctions

Brunk Auctions

Brunk Auctions

Historia Auktionshaus

Historia Auktionshaus