A lacquered manju depicting a pair of hina dolls, the ground in a dark brown and the dolls lacquered in various shades of gold. The common, almost automatic dating for these manju is the 19th century, however, the more time I spend with this netsuke the more convinced I am that it is in fact an early example. The ground, starting black, has gradually turned brown with time and the gold surface of the dolls has formed a beautiful patina only seen on early inro. The area of wear from many years of use convinces me further.
I believe it dates to the 17th century, possibly earlier.
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