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Smiling Figurine

A work made of earthenware.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of earthenware.


c. 1000–300 B.C.



About this artwork

Figurines from the Jômon period have been found in greater numbers than figural representations from Neolithic China or Korea, pointing toward Japan’s rich ritual life, within which these figurines played an important role.

Though roughly executed, this figurine exudes human expression. Its features were made with a stick (the V-shaped mouth), by pinching clay between the artist’s fingers (the nose, brow, and ears), and by pressing the artist’s nails into the clay (the eyes). Although this sculpture is missing most of its arms and legs, a line indicating some sort of clothing worn at the waist is visible. Next to one eye is a natural stone inclusion in the clay, and red pigment was painted in the incisions. On the back is a spiral design, as well as a modern label that indicates that the figure was unearthed in the Tama ward area of western Tokyo.


On View, Gallery 102


Arts of Asia


Smiling Figurine


Japan (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

1000 BCE–300 BCE




11.5 × 9.6 × 3.9 cm (4 1/2 × 3 3/4 × 1 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with Funds Provided by the Weston Foundation; President's Exhibition and Acquisition Fund

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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