A Vintage Hand Painted Ema: Shinto Ex Voto
mid twentieth century
5 1/2" x 7", 14 cm x 17.75 cm
This is a charming, hand painted wooden tablet showing a tethered horse which is dressed in fanciful festival wear.
This painted plaque 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.
This ema depicts a horse; the horse is the traditional or original form of the ema which literally means "picture horse." In old Japan, horses were donated to Shinto shrines and as they were a luxurious donation, the tradition of donating a painted image of a horse became a popular way for those of lesser means to petition the gods of the shrine.
A wonderful thing with rustic appeal.