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  • Material

    Lacquer (gofun) on wood, silk textile

  • Size

    H. 37 cm

  • Period

    Edo period, 18-19th century


Gosho-ningyō, Imperial palace doll

Gosho-ningyō means “Imperial palace dolls” which originated in the return gifts from the Imperial family or the court nobles to the Daimyō (feudal) lords in the beginning of the 18th century. The feudal lords were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo (today’s Tokyo) by the rule established by the Tokugawa shogunate. It was unavoidable for the lords to move between their feudal estate and Edo. The lords in the west who had to pass Kyoto used to visit the court to pay respects to the Emperor or the court nobles. In the end of the Edo period, it gradually had spread to the general public and sold. It generally has a plump child figure with brilliant white skin and refined elegant face as the noble, and are often expressed with the auspicious motives.

This plump child in a beautiful kimono is waving a mallet over his head. He is wearing a bib as underwear which is embroidered the traditional design of treasure for luck with gold thread gorgeously. This pattern of treasure suggests that the mallet he has is a mallet of luck. With his hood, it is so lovely as if this child is pretending the Daikokuten, the god of wealth.
All the equipment as gorgeous kimono and mallet are original. The condition of the body is perfect, and even the textiles are very good for its age. The size is nice to enjoy the seasonal decoration, to celebrate the special events. His lovely smile will surely convey the good lucks.

Gosho ningyo arose when houko ritual purification figures were turned into dolls (these are cloth figures in the form of a naked child, made from white silk stuffed with cotton, which take on impurity and misfortune in place of the child), and it is said that they developed from hadaka saga, a type of saga doll common at the beginning of the Edo Era. Haihai ningyo are dolls given by the Emperor to the imperial princes and princesses since ancient times, not just to celebrate a birth, but also on New Year and August 1st. Princesses have handed down their cherished dolls to Monseki temples such as Houkyouji and Reikanji. Nowadays too, the thoughts of people praying for the healthy development of children are carried by these gosho ningyo dolls, unchanged for generations, looking to all the world as if they are about to toddle off.

The softly shining white skin resembling porcelain is formed from layers of the pigment known as gofun, made from refined powdered itabo oyster.