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 bad news is that without written provenance, you can’t say it came from the Wilcox estate. We don’t know by whom, when, or where it was made. A translation of the writing on the bottom of the jaw might be of help. Maybe someone who sees this odd Hannya will comment.

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2 Comments

  • Adam Fisher

    It’s a folk-art copy of a Hannya mask, made by a hobbyist most likely, as it doesn’t follow the strict design of real Noh masks and doesn’t show signs of use. The writing says ‘made by Tomonobu’.

  • Bob Ibold

    I believe Adam is correct. This is too crude of a Hannya mask to have been done by a professional. Also, I looked at Perzynski’s “Japanese Noh Masks” and there were no carvers by the name “Tomonobu.”

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