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Kokeshi Doll


Artwork Details

Kokeshi Doll
mid-20th century
wood with painted design
14 3/8 x 4 3/16 x 2 13/16 in. (36.5 x 10.5 x 7 cm)
Gift of Harold W. Stevenson, University of Michigan Professor Emeritus in Psychology

On Display

Not currently on display


Subject Matter:

Kokeshi dolls are handmade wooden dolls that date back to the 19th century and come from the Tohoku region of Northern Japan. The origin and meaning of the word kokeshi is uncertain but it may be derived from the word for wooden (木, ki, ko) or small (小, ko), and the word for dolls (芥子, keshi). Kokeshi dolls have a head and body but no defined hands, legs, or feet. Their faces, clothing, and decoration are all painted on their head and body. Many people believe kokeshi dolls have spiritual significance and can be used to protect children. This kokeshi doll is a so-called traditional type, which has an abstract painted design of a child with a bob-cut hair style and a colorful kimono. More recently, there is a new type called “creative” kokeshi, with more free-form designs. Both traditional and creative kokeshi dolls are used as ornaments, collector’s items, and are bought as gifts or souvenirs in and outside of Japan.

Physical Description:

A wooden doll with two tiers made up of a head and body with no arms, legs or feet. Painted on the head is a face, hair, and a red headdress. The body is painted to look like it is wearing a red and yellow kimono with stripes red, black, and purple in the middle for the obi. You can see where the kimono begins and ends at the top and bottom of the body.

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