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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

Recommended Items at Auction

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Japanese Carved Sculpture Clam Shell w/ Landscape
May 25, 11:00 AM EDT
Japanese Carved Sculpture Clam Shell w/ Landscape
by Kavanagh Auctions
Est: $40- $15,000
$401 Bid
Morio Nishimura (1960 Tokio)
May 25, 2:00 PM CEST
Morio Nishimura (1960 Tokio)
by Wettmann
Est: €900- €0
€9000 Bids
Morio Nishimura (1960 Tokio)
May 25, 2:00 PM CEST
Morio Nishimura (1960 Tokio)
by Wettmann
Est: €1,500- €0
€1,5000 Bids
A Japanese Bronze Model of a Karashishi
May 22, 10:30 AM BST
A Japanese Bronze Model of a Karashishi
by Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales
Est: £250- £350
£1500 Bids
Tomonori Toyofuku 1925–2019
Jun 19, 1:00 PM CEST
Tomonori Toyofuku 1925–2019
by Artcurial Beurret Bailly Widmer
Est: CHF15,000- CHF20,000
CHF15,0000 Bids
† A CARVED WOOD SCULPTURE OF AMIDA NYORAI (AMITABHA), KAMAKURA
Jun 14, 10:00 AM CEST
† A CARVED WOOD SCULPTURE OF AMIDA NYORAI (AMITABHA), KAMAKURA
by Galerie Zacke
Est: €7,500- €15,000
€7,5000 Bids
Modern Art Studio Ceramic Sculpture
Jun 01, 10:00 AM EDT
Modern Art Studio Ceramic Sculpture
by Roland Auctions NY
Est: $150- $250
$500 Bids
Satoshi Yabuuchi (Japanese, b. 1935)
Jun 05, 10:00 AM EDT
Satoshi Yabuuchi (Japanese, b. 1935)
by Caza Sikes
Est: $2,500- $4,000
$1,2000 Bids
Yayoi Kusama - Plush Pumpkin Yellow (Dots Obsession), 2016
May 26, 6:00 PM CEST
Yayoi Kusama - Plush Pumpkin Yellow (Dots Obsession), 2016
by TGP Auction
Est: CHF350- CHF400
CHF2000 Bids
Yayoi Kusama - Plush Pumpkin White (Dots Obsession), 2016
May 26, 6:00 PM CEST
Yayoi Kusama - Plush Pumpkin White (Dots Obsession), 2016
by TGP Auction
Est: CHF350- CHF400
CHF2000 Bids
Ji-Zai, Feuerhaken, Japan, Holz
Jun 08, 10:00 AM CEST
Ji-Zai, Feuerhaken, Japan, Holz
by Auktionshaus Arnold
Est: €0- €0
€2000 Bids
A FINE WOOD SCULPTURE OF JUICHIMON KANNON
Jun 11, 9:30 AM CEST
A FINE WOOD SCULPTURE OF JUICHIMON KANNON
by Nagel Auction
Est: €2,500- €3,500
€2,4000 Bids
A Japanese bronze Koro
May 22, 10:30 AM BST
A Japanese bronze Koro
by Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales
Est: £200- £300
£2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Sculptures


Wettmann

Wettmann

Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales

Dreweatts 1759 Fine Sales

TGP Auction

TGP Auction

Auktionshaus Arnold

Auktionshaus Arnold