Crafts of Japan: Iki Ningyo realistic dolls

Iki Ningyo doll's head

These heads that once belonged to life sized dolls look slightly spooky and disturbing, so realistically looking they are. No wonder, Iki-Ningyo literally means "true-to-life dolls" and it is hard to believe that they were made in the 19th century. These extremely real dolls were used for creating scenes from a fashionable plays or well-known historical events. It was a popular amusement in the late 19th century Japan. The figures were modeled with absolute attention to character and realism. The heads were made of wood covered in crushed shell paste and had glass eyes, ivory teeth, individually inset human hair and eyelashes. These figures were not always executed for exhibition purposes, but also for the private viewer.
A few more examples of the 19th century Iki-Ningyo heads from the Tokyo National Museum collection. Looking at these hyper-realistic heads one can't help but admire the skills of the craftsmen.

1 comment:

  1. these were all made in the 19 century? how fascinating!