Lot: 2

"Nô" - theatre mask "Asakura jō" ("old man of Asakura")

Japan, Edo (1603-1868)

Provenance Size Hammer price
German Private Collection, Rüthen H: 8.1 inch 1900 EUR

wood, gypsum, polychrome paint, hair, handwritten characters: "Asakura jo" and old label with characters (illegible), inventory no. "I27"

The mask shows a small, wizened old man and usually represents a fisherman or woodcutter. According to Perzynski, it is used in the "Nô" games Utō, Hakurakuten and Chikubushima. An "Asakura jō" mask illustrated by Perzynski, p. 82.

There are various kinds of masks for the role of an old man, showing subtle differences in beard and mustache, either hand-painted or using real hair, and in the arrangement of teeth. (e.g. "Kojō", "Tokusajō", "Koshimaki jō", etc., cf. Perzynski, vol. II,1925, pp. 141, 193 and 145).

The "Nô" theatre evolved in the 14th century from the antique tradition of religious dances and burlesque plays, which used to be performed in temples.

In the course of time about 250 different mask types for the depiction of different characters have been developed. There are masks for women and men, monsters and demons, as well as masks for divinities. Traditional themes were taken from japanese mythology or literature.

The primary concern of the "Nô" art is to convey "Yûgen" to the audience, which means as much as "beauty", "depth of sentiment", "gracefulness", "elegance". It is essential to convey characters and events through minimal gestures and movements, but not to play in a realistic manner.


Perzynski, Friedrich, Japanische Masken, Zweiter Band, Berlin, Leipzig 1925, p. 82