Palace Doll   Mitate, Noh Dance

Kansei era (1789–1801) Donated by Saitō Shōji

Palace dolls, or goshō ningyō, are child-like dolls characterized by chubby figures, fair skin, small hands and legs, and large heads. Treasured in the imperial court, they express hope for happiness and prosperity in life. 

‘Mitate’ can be loosely translated as ‘allusion’ or ‘parody,’ and is often used in Noh performances, using familiar objects such as fans or wig containers to represent other actions. Although the Noh performance this doll alludes to is unknown, the large tachibana orange blossom design on its ‘hitatare’ kimono––a large square-cut coat with cord-laced sleeve edges typically worn by samurai men––suggests it was a festive one. It has a distinctive, round face, and its right toe peeking out from under its kimono suggests that the doll seems to be in motion.