A Hand Painted Ema: Shinto Devotional Plaque
mid twentieth century
image size: 5 1/4" x 6 1/2", 13.5 cm x 16.5 cm
This is a charming, hand painted wooden tablet showing a devout woman in prayer.
This is a ko ema. An ema is a votive tablet offered by an individual to a Shinto temple either in petition for a favor or in thanks for a favor received. Some ema can be very large and hand painted. They can depict battle scenes, sailing ships or other elaborate images. Ko ema are small votives which were mass-produced by itinerant painters who would sell the goods on roads leading to, or in front of, a shrine.
Often the image on the ko ema is meaningful. For example, the depiction of hands is asking for help with a deficit to the hand, the same with eyes, and so on. This image of a praying woman clearly has some significance but its true meaning has not come to light, as much as we may want to speculate on it.
The image is efficiently painted using only four colors and the object is quickly assembled with lightweight wood. Note the handwriting in pencil on the front and back of this ema.
A wonderful thing with rustic appeal.