• East Asia

    Old Noh theater mask

    Q:  I  have and old Japanese mask but know nothing about it. Thanks!  Oliver, 1262 A:  I assume it is an old temple mask– something a monk has made for sale to faithful visitors to the temple. Or it could be an old man for a Noh play. I asked Oliver to send me some higher res scans and will post them when they come. Then I can make a few more comments.

  • East Asia

    Old Man mask of Japanese Noh theater

    Q:  I have an old wooden Japanese mask and would like it identified and dated. Can you help? I have not found another in my research on Google.   Ian, 1257 A:  Many of the Noh plays feature one or more old men in the cast. Identifying your particular old man will be difficult. I think it is from the the first half of the 20th century. The quality of the carving suggests it sold for a lower price. Perhaps you can find someone fluent in Japanese to translate that old label. What the label says might raise or lower the value a little.  A-

  • East Asia

    Decorative wall hanging

    Q:  Could you please tell me more about this mask, where it’s from and if it has any value?  Ronald, 1228 A:  I normally publish real masks on the Mask Man blog, not decorative art. But I thought this might be a copy of a Japanese Bugaku mask. Wrong! Only places like India, Nepal, China and Indonesia do masks with their tongue hanging out. And this is obviously not a real mask, but something nobody could wear. It can only be art for the wall. One of the problems with non-masks is that they often add and subtract features that come from other cultures. This is confusing and something most…

  • East Asia

    Large Japanese wall-hanging

    Q:  This mask is 17″ tall. I think it’s cypress wood with a gofun finish. Thanks for any info.  Gigi, 1214 A:  One of my rules is that we post masks that could or have been used in culture, plus good quality reproductions of same. We try to avoid items made for other purposes. I broke the rule because this sculpture is so beautiful and so Japanese. It looks like a male version of Ofuku, but it does not depict a specific character from Kyogen or Noh. Gigi:  don’t hesitate to share with our viewers the who, what, when, where and how much you paid for these pieces. Inquiring minds…

  • East Asia

    Nuo mask from Guangxi, China

    When we started writing Masks of the World about four years ago, we said on page 50 of the East Asia chapter the following (slightly revised). From the Maonan ethnic group living in the remote Guangxi Province, this is a well-used Nuo character mask. Nuo is an old name for exorcism ceremonies meant to drive off pestilence, disease and death. These  ceremonies eventually evolved into dances, and later into operas. The Maonans have always been farmers, but times have been changing rapidly in the People’s Republic. Urbanization seems to be ending much of the folk art traditions. Masks like this one, repainted several times and now exhibiting a nicely worn…

  • East Asia

    Chinese decorative art

    Q:  I came across this Devil-faced mask at a local auction. It appears to be made from wood, I’m not sure what material the eyes are made of. Have you got any clue where this grinning devil originated from? I recall paying £65 for it, perhaps too much money but I like it.  Alex, 1186 A:  The quality of this wood carving is very high. The eyes are painted, but sometimes glass is used. It comes from China where skilled carvers have been slowly cranking them out for several generations. They are sold in tourist shops and art galleries around the world. Many different characters are portrayed. They are always…

  • East Asia

    Black-faced monk from Korea

    This mask is very popular in Yangju, South Korea. In the dance drama this ugly old man tries to seduce a pretty girl. The white dots on his black face are supposed to represent small pox. There are quite a few characters in these celebrations, but the favorites are monks and pretty girls. The girl masks are colored white and the monks are black. This one is made out of wood. The other common material used in Yangju is papier mache. Korean masks look much different from those of other countries around the world.  B+

  • East Asia

    Hannya the She Devil

    Q:  My mother brought this mask with her when she moved to the main land from Kauai, HI. She told me someone she knew got it from the Wilcox family estate on Kauai in the 70s. I’m assuming it is Japanese from looking at the style and markings on the rear. I am interested in learning more about it.  Michael, 1156 A:  It is indeed Japanese– one of the most famous characters from the classic Noh theater, Hannya the she devil. Just Google her for more information. The good news is that all kinds of Americans love this character, not just mask collectors, so you can sell it easily. The…

  • East Asia

    A Thai hermit mask rarely seen

    Q:  Do you want to use this mask for your website?  This special hermit mask is a Lersi Por Gae that was made for a Thai shaman. It is beautifully made and has written mantras in Pali all over the face.  Only 4 years old, it has never been danced, but is still authentic in the sense that it was part of a shaman’s shrine. Quite rare, I’ve seen only one other so far.   Steph, 1105 A:  Blow up the second photo as large as you can and see how finely Thai maskmakers can form and decorate these papier mache masterpieces. If you have a copy of Masks of the…

  • East Asia

    Japanese Iki-Ningyo mask

    Q:  I first came upon these while researching Noh masks in museums in Europe. I later discovered other examples mostly in association with Asian antique dealers and auction houses. They are frequently identified as “iki-ningyo” masks but are also identified incorrectly as noh or gigaku masks. I have tried to find these same sort of objects in Japan, through Japanese-language google searches and websites. No luck. The closest association (though still quite dissimilar) are iki-ningyo heads. No masks. There is a reference in Alan Scott Pate’s Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyo, but I can find no mention of masks. My guess is that these types of works were…