Blog: Conservation of a 'living doll'
Iki ningyo (literally 'living dolls') are Japanese life-size figures that were made to look like as realistic as possible. Popular in 19th century Japan, they were often displayed both individually and in tableaux, frequently depicting events from history and legend. They were also extremely popular at international exhibitions where they were displayed as genre scenes.
Matsumoto Kisaburo (1826-1892) and Yasumoto Kamehachi (1828-1900) are considered masters of the form, and produced figures that were so realistic they were said to be difficult to differentiate from humans.
The V&A owns three such figures, two wearing full samurai armour and a third female figure kneeling in a palanquin. The conservation of the iki ningyo wearing a full suit of armour, dating from the 19th century is described in this blog.
Follow our Textile Conservator Sarah Glenn as she works on the conservation of the Japanese iki ningyo (living doll).
Alan Scott Pate describes iki ningyo in detail
National Diet Library Tokyo - article on woodcuts showing iki ningyo diplays
Harvard Journal of Asiatic studies article on The Carnival of Edo
The real Hananuma Masakichi?