Celebrating the Japanese doll festival in ink.

doll festival postcard
Hina matsuri dolls, ink on Japanese postcard, 2021

It’s that time of the year already, the doll festival. In Japan the doll festival or hina matsuri 「雛祭り」takes place on March 3rd.

In the week leading up to this date, or sometimes earlier, people will place their little aristocrat couple dolls in their elegant attire on display. These dolls are meant to bring good luck to the girls in a household, so they grow up healthy.

Every year I try my hand at painting the little dolls in ink, with one of sensei’s paintings shared from Tokyo. I find the dolls very cute and it’s a fun, relaxing exercise. I’m very grateful that sensei 「小林東雲先生」shares this ink wash painting with artists overseas as well.

Below is last year’s version, as another example:

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A post shared by Mafalda Tenente (@mtenente)

Inspired by art history

Also, the dolls’ robes remind me of my time reading the Japanese literature classics, and looking over the paintings illustrating these tales. The classic genre painting style where you see characters of a story through a bird’s eye, open-roof perspective and elegantly clad is called Yamato-e. Yamato is the name of an old province of Japan. If you place your finger on a map roughly south of Kyoto and West of Ise, this is where you would find it. “e” is the word for image.

Some of the literature classics were so important they make up an entire sub-category of Yamato-e. This is the case of the Tale of Genji by Lady Shikibu Murasaki. Paintings inspired by the most famous of all Japanese novels became known as Genji-e. Have a look at the following gallery from the Kyoto National Museum for a quick glimpse into the genre: https://g.co/arts/drGGv3oAMKJgu4DL8.

I find my dolls look very happy next to the first blossoms of spring on the desk, do you? Do you find small details of Japanese art history interesting?


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