Vintage Sosaku Kokeshi Set Entitled: Kurōbāgāru no Mittsu-ri no Shimai, (Clover Girls) by Watanabe, Masao
Dimensions: 5-1/2”h; 5-0”h; 3-0”h
These three rare dolls represent sisters and are quite unusual with exaggerated, egg-like shape heads. Each body has clover drawings suggestive of the natural flora seen throughout the countryside. The heads have a wisp of bangs on each with simple downturned eyes and red noses. The top of the heads are green representing the fields of clover and the bodies are detailed in red, yellow, and green, with a small clover in the center of each body. The largest doll has a clear lacquer finish and the other two have a candle wax finish. Two of the dolls are signed and have red stamps on the bottom. The smallest has a tiny stamp representing the artist's studio.
This Tanka, (Long Poem) was associated with the creation of this short series of dolls:
It’s all I have to bring today
this, and my heart beside
this, and my heart, and all the fields and all the meadows wide
be sure you count — should I forget someone the sum could tell
this, and my heart, and all the Bees which in the Clover dwell.
Condition: Very Good, original condition, with no fading or loss of color and consistent with age and standards of collectible Folk Art. There are finish/textural differences between dolls.
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Masao Watanabe | 1917-2007 (89)
Born in Fukushima, Watanabe-san studied under Traditional Yajirou Master Sato, Tatsuo of Miyagi Prefecture. Arguably, the most popular and prolific of the 20th/c Sosaku Kokeshi artists, he began his craft in the early 1950s. His most famous Kokeshi themes are that of ‘innocence’ (Mushin), and his doll entitled: Chigo Zakura (Cherry Blossom Child). A multiple award winner in Kokeshi competitions around the world (Prime Minister's prizes for the works of "Chigozskura" in 1963 and "Shojo" in 1981), along with numerous prizes by the Modern Kokeshi Artist Association and JETRO. He held two exhibitions in Japan and was exempt from the examination of the All Japan Kokeshi Contest, a Member of the Nippon Kokeshi Artistic Handicraft Association. His works are permanently exhibited at the Nuremberg Toy Museum in Germany.
Collector's note – descriptive qualities, standard characteristics & ornamentation styles:
Of all the Kokeshi produced by Masao Watanabe, his doll entitled, Mushin, (Innocence), is the most representative of this artist’s work. The emphasis is on the color of the natural wood and texture, and the form of this piece is the most recognizable of all of his dolls. The representation of clothing, complemented by the natural graining of the wood, and the painting of the sash, is common for this particular series. The natural wood implies the kimono or yukata with Its smooth curves brought about through the use of the lathe. Some painted and raised forms to resemble Shibori, a type of tie-dyeing that give texture to the garment. He also prominently features the rose and camellia as a central motif. His most famous piece above, is entitled, ‘Chigo Zakura’, (Cherry Blossom Child), which won the Prime Minister’s Award, and was presented to the Beatles in 1965, after their appearance in Japan with Sir Joseph Lockwood, Chairman of EMI Record Distributors, England.