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Head from a Haniwa in the Shape of a Horse

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, Arts of Japan, 2nd floor
Clay cylinders called haniwa were set into the ground around the large funerary mounds created during Japan’s Kofun period (circa 300–538 C.E.). Their original purpose was probably to mark and protect the periphery of the tomb. Many haniwa have been decorated to resemble houses, animals, or people; these likely represented the entourage and possessions that the deceased would need in the afterlife.

The figural haniwa appears to represent a female of high status, with jewelry and a shelf-like headdress. It is unusual that the pigment on her face and body survives. Because of her distinctive facial markings, she is sometimes identified as a holy woman or shaman, but it may be that many different types of women marked their faces during this period.
MEDIUM Low fired earthenware pottery, reassembled from fragments
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 5th–6th century
    PERIOD Kofun Period
    DIMENSIONS 6 x 5 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. (15.2 x 14 x 31.1 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Isamu Noguchi
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Low fired pottery horse head (haniwa) Earthenware haniwa in the form of a horse head with bridle of applied boss and strip decoration. Condition: Left ear void, right ear chipped. Back of head and most of left side is badly worn. Some repair to bridle straps at right side.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, Arts of Japan, 2nd floor
    CAPTION Head from a Haniwa in the Shape of a Horse, 5th–6th century. Low fired earthenware pottery, reassembled from fragments, 6 x 5 1/2 x 12 1/4 in. (15.2 x 14 x 31.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Isamu Noguchi, 61.233. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 61.233_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 61.233_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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