small standing highly stylized figure with very large coffee bean-type eyes; PR lower arm missing; openings at top of head and at bottom; upturned pig-like nostrils; textured body covered with scrolling designs; looping scrolls around stomach/navel and between breasts; small, widely spaced breasts with pronounced nipples; repeating incised zigzags with textured areas on back of head/hair; dark/black patina

Figurine of a Female, 1000-800 BCE

Unknown artist, expand_more

2016 Accession Highlight

Mia’s collection of objects from ancient Japan is small but includes several important examples of early pottery. A figurative work from Japan’s earliest culture, however, was noticeably lacking. The acquisition of this work addressed this void. Archaeologists have uncovered many different kinds of clay figurines—dogū—dating to the Jōmon period (14,000–300 BCE)­. The most diverse forms have been excavated in northeastern Japan, where this figurine of a female was discovered. Some are seated, others standing, some have heart-shaped heads, others round and wearing headpieces, some have little or no surface decoration, and others, like this example, known as a shakōki or “goggle-eyed” type, have distinctive large eyes and are adorned with color and complex carved decorations. No one knows for sure how these figurines were used, but the prevailing theory holds that they served as talismans related to health and childbirth, and that after they were used they were purposefully broken. The present figurine is among the most compelling, best preserved, and, quite simply, most beautiful dogū in any American collection.

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small standing highly stylized figure with very large coffee bean-type eyes; PR lower arm missing; openings at top of head and at bottom; upturned pig-like nostrils; textured body covered with scrolling designs; looping scrolls around stomach/navel and between breasts; small, widely spaced breasts with pronounced nipples; repeating incised zigzags with textured areas on back of head/hair; dark/black patina