Project Description

Noh mask of Akujō      

Wood with traces of pigment. Two holes at the top indicate that the mask may have had horns at one time. Wood plugs to the upper lip and chin show that the mask was originally embellished with horse hair, and it seems that there were gilt copper covers to the eyes, now lost.

Height 20cm.


Anecdotally thought to have been in the collection of Hayashi Tadashi, Paris, then in the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin, and since in two private collections in Germany


Akujō is one of the oldest classes of Noh mask. This long history resulted in the development of numerous very specific, readily identifiable types. This example fits none of these types, meaning that it was made long before standardization had taken place. Moreover, several features –the pronounced veining, clearly delineated “crown” and thick eyebrows, all carved in relief- bespeak a very old vintage. In other words, this mask is an early prototype and thus probably unique. The damage to the wood and loss of paint are inevitable in masks of this age.


Rutherston & Bandini, Japanese Masks, 2012, no. 1