Princesses One and All: The Celebration of Girls' Day through Japanese Prints

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_princesses_16070

    Katsukawa Shunchō (act. c. 1781-1801). 'The Doll Festival at a Military Household,' Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), c. 1781-1801. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Gift of James A. Michener, 1971. (16070)

February 21, 2013 - April 21, 2013
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

Every year on the third day of the third month, families throughout Japan honor daughters by displaying in their homes an elaborate collection of dolls decorated to resemble court nobles from the Heian era (794-1185). Hina matsuri (literally, “Doll Festival,” but commonly known in English as “Girls’ Day”) and its custom of displaying dolls did, in fact, originate during the Heian era. At the time, dolls were thought to be capable of absorbing evil spirits and purifying one’s home.

The superb craftsmanship with which many Girls’ Day dolls are constructed and the meticulousness with which the iconography of each doll is defined have intrigued collectors of Japanese art since the 19th century. On view in the Robert F. Lange Foundation Gallery are selections from the museum’s permanent collection of dolls along with prints from the Edo period (1615-1868) through the early Shöwa period (1926-1989) that depict Girls’ Day dolls, women celebrating the holiday, and young women engaged in cultural pursuits such as archery and flower arranging. In the alcove of the adjoining Japan Gallery are endearing depictions of Girls’ Day dolls by Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), best known for his evocative landscape prints.