Noh mask (1) – Wood – Arakawa Kisai (1827-1906) – Very fine Hannya mask – including original inscribed tomobako – Japan – Late Edo period

Finely carved into every detail, beautiful expression.

Arakawa Kisai was born the son of a carpenter in Shimane prefecture in 1827. He was considered a child prodigy by the age of five, and began sculpting very early. He received a proper education, and by the time he was twelve his clay sculptures were a popular collector’s item. At the age of fourteen his artistic training began in earnest, working as a netsuke carver, he studied shrine architecture while also taking painting lessons from Nabeshima Ungaku and Buddhist sculpture under Kato Saori. Successful in these endeavors, at the age of 28 he would also begin metal sculpting while keeping company with artisans of all trades, absorbing many skills. With the opening of the country in the Meiji era, he would begin studying Nanga painting under Nakanishi Koseki as well as Western style oil painting under pioneering artist Yokoyama Matsusaburo. He submitted a piece to the first Naikoku Hakurankai (1877 National Industrial Exhibition) which was awarded and collected by the Imperial Household. He studied Physics, and developed a number of important inventions including weaving machines. He had exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the Paris World Exposition in 1900, where his works were awarded.

In the second part of the play titled Lady Aoi (Aoi no Ue) by Zeami, based on Chapter 9, “Leaves of Wild Ginger” (Aoi), a mountain monk is summoned to perform a ritual to exorcise the vengeful spirit of Lady Rokujō. The jealousy in her heart is embodied as a female ogre, played by a Noh actor wearing a hannya mask, representing a female serpent-demon. A battle rages between the monk and the demon. Eventually, a Buddhist scripture reaches the lady’s heart, and her ogre aspect is calmed.

The hannya mask has an open mouth, strong jaw, sharp teeth, golden eyes, and two horns. Its expression is simultaneously demonic, angry, frightening, tormented, and sorrowful.

Dimensions: 18 x 16 x 23 cm

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