Skip Navigation

Haniwa Figure of a Woman

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 Earthenware with traces of pigment
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES 5th-6th century
    PERIOD Kofun Period
    DIMENSIONS 18 x 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (45.7 x 22.2 x 19.1 cm)  (show scale)
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Three-quarter length standing figure of a priestess, who would have presided over the funeral ceremonies of a Yamato chieftain. She wears a coat-like robe closed diagonally across the chest and having a flaring lower edge. She has a string of beads around her neck and a flat, crescent-shaped headdress. Haniwa were placed around and on the top of a kofun (burial mound) for which the period is named. Kofun mounds have been located throughout Japan, from the end of the 3rd century to late 5th-6th century A.D., demonstrating the long duration of the practice. The large mounds are associated with high ranking leaders. Material: Buff earthenware with traces of red iron-oxide pigment on the lower robe, neck, cheeks, eyebrows, and forehead.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, Arts of Japan, 2nd floor
    CAPTION Haniwa Figure of a Woman, 5th-6th century. Earthenware with traces of pigment, 18 x 8 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (45.7 x 22.2 x 19.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 79.278.1. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 79.278.1_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 79.278.1_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2014
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
    You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
    Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.