An exceptional example of Japanese Haniwa sculpture, dating to the Kofun (or Tumulus) Period, 4th - 6th century AD.
The figure, probably depicting a shaman or shamaness, is shown with tall bifurcated headdress and large conical ears, the austere face with unusual incisions, perhaps representing scarifications. Two rough circular areas below the ears likely originally had applied earrings.
The famous Japanese Historian, Dr. Tetsuro Watsuji expresses the appeal of the Haniwa in his own way:
Look at them, if you will, from afar off; but the strange thing you will notice is that the farther you draw away from them, the more real they become... As one gradually draws away from a Haniwa, the sculptured eyes become real eyes, now truly the 'windows of the soul'; the whole face lights up with life; and the entire Haniwa figure itself seems about to come alive.
For further reading on Haniwa sculpture please see:
Miki, F. 1960. Haniwa: The Clay Sculpture of Proto-Historic Japan. Charles Tuttle: North Clardendon.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark. 1990. Japanese Art: Masterpieces in the British Museum. British Museum Press: London
Compare a fragmentary piece in the Metropolitan Museum with similar incised lines on the face.
The largest, most striking Haniwa that we have seen on the market in recent years. A truly powerful piece of ancient sculpture.
Height: 13 1/4 inches or 17 1/2 inches as mounted
Width: 8 1/4 inches
Condition: Fragment, as shown, unrestored. Beautifully mounted on an ebonised wood base.
From the collection of Christine Oppenheim, New York. Acquired from her husband in 1970.