Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi by Yamanaka, Sanpei
Here we see a decorative treatment of the head of this beautiful kokeshi that is quite unique, playing off of the hairstyle of the day with a more traditional ‘Mage’ look. She has simple understated eyes and a red dot for a nose. The unusual feature is the horizontal red and green striations of ‘Rokuro- moyo’, a manner in which the colors encircle the body, suggesting the garment being worn. On top of the stripes and only on the front of the doll are yellow spring flowers. The body is accentuated with a red Obi.
Yamanaka-san is known for his warm, soft colors, always with a child-like sense of wonder about them. These represent a sense of the typical rural areas. There is an inscription on the bottom of the doll identifying Yamanaka as the maker.
Condition: Excellent meaning that the piece retains its original craft/workmanship showing a wonderful-developed patina commensurate which suggests a degree of wear that corresponds to its vintage. It is void of damage, cracks, breakage, or repairs and meets all the standards of the collectible Sosaku Kokeshi.
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Born in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, Yamanaka-san began his artistic career as a photographer, after majoring in chemistry. However, rather than develop a career in Traditional Yamagata doll making, Yamanaka-san used his art background to join the Sosaku Kokeshi movement. A multiple award winner, he won the Ministry of Education Award at the all Nippon Modern Kokeshi Exhibition in 1979.
Collector's note – descriptive qualities, standard characteristics & ornamentation styles:
Yamanaka-san creates wonderfully painted and decorated dolls in many forms and shapes. He may utilize a palette of soft watercolor rings in the Rokuro-moyo manner, to create a suggestion of a rainbow, because in Buddhism, the rainbow is “the highest state achievable before attaining Nirvana, where individual desire and consciousness are sublimated”. On numerous occasions, Yamanaka adds painted flowers to add to the overall dimension of the garment that it is representing. This is not to say that he does not enjoy the natural qualities of wood. Controlled carving adds textures that are neat, random, and sometimes repetitive, and provides decoration to his dolls. The carving contrasts nicely with the natural grain of the wood. Dolls portray wonderful traditional hairstyles through the use of “chattering’ and controlled carving. His head and facial designs are most expressive, particularly with figures of children.