Shiro-Hannya

#2652

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Noh mask
Wood and gofun pigment
Edo period, 17th century
Backside of the mask:
白般若近江打
Shiro-Hannya Ōmi-da
White Hannya, carved by Ōmi

With a lacquered storage box

The Hannya mask is a Noh mask which represents a jealous female demon or serpent. It has two sharp bull-like horns, metallic eyes, and a leering mouth split from ear to ear. It is generally said that the name of Hannya came from the name of an artist monk Hannya-bō who is said to have created it. The Hannya mask is generally worn in the titles as “Aoi-no-ue” or “Dōjyōji” of Noh theatre. This mask portrays the souls of women who have become demons due to obsession or jealousy. Its distinctive and frightening appearance makes it one of the most recognizable Noh masks. This mask is demonic and dangerous, but also sorrowful and tormented, displaying the complexity of human emotions. Each aspect has each emotional expression; when the actor looks straight ahead, the mask appears frightening and angry; when tilted slightly down, the face appears to be sorrowful deeply. There are some types of Hannya mask, Shiro-Hannya (literally “White Hannya mask”) or Aka-Hannya (literally “Red Hannya mask”).

This piece has a exceptional expression. Pale face and the slight wrinkle on the middle of the forehead express the anger and the pains of deep sorrow. Delicately dishevelled black hair make the mask look more grisly as if this female demon completely forgets herself because of jealous and grudge.
On the backside of the mask, it is lacquered with gold lacquer “Shiro-Hannya, carved by Ōmi”. Ōmi means Ōmi-Iseki family which produced the Noh masks from 16th to 17th century in Ōmi (today, Nagahama city, Shiga prefecture). According to its patina and the carving, probably this mask was carved by Ōmiya Yamato Sanemori, the last generation of Iseki family.

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