Yamabushi Samurai Warrior Benkei Meiji Toso Gosho Ningyo Paper Mache Doll 11"H 武蔵坊弁慶
Antique Japanese Paper Mache Toso Ningyo
Warrior Benkei 西塔武蔵坊弁慶
Subduing Two Samurai Guards
Sig. Unsigned. Circa: Meiji, 1867-1912
H 11 in. (28cm), W 9 in. (23cm), D 7 in. (18cm)
Condition: minor imperfections, overall very good.
Burlwood Pedestal Included
A superb antique Japanese Toso Ningyo of Saito Musashibō Benkei (1155–1189), the mighty Yamabushi samurai who lived in the latter years of the Heian Period (794–1185). He is commonly depicted as a man of great strength and loyalty, and a popular subject of Japanese folklore showcased in many ancient and modern literature and arts. Formed with Toso, a clay-like substance made of paulownia sawdust and paste; over a wooden or paper mache core and covered with layers of Gofun (Oyster Shell Lacquer).
Here in this peerless Benkei wrestling with two samurai, in a sculptural composition that shows the warrior monk is forging ahead, at the splitting moment as his right foot is trampling on the back of a samurai who has fallen to the ground while throwing a crying samurai over his shoulders. The composition is dynamic and literally sweeping with force. The facial features of Benkei are handsomely sculpted with dignity, showing a countenance of resolute power in command of the conflict. The figures are realistic and intricate, the characterization is virile with a lighthearted approach. Along with the finely sculpted features and attributes, the garments of all three figures have been delicately hand-painted in polychrome florals and gold motifs, with a soft patina of ages radiating an aura of timelessness, ever reflecting the gem-like opulence of the Meiji era past, when following the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris Japanese Ningyo dolls first recognized to be in a class of its own-- and as shown here in this exemplary find.