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Noh mask - Noh mask of Zo-Onna

Noh mask of Zo-Onna

  • Object:

    Noh mask

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    late 18th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and painted Japanese cypress (hinoki) wood

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This mask of the female character Zo-Onna was used in Noh, the classical Japanese theatre that frequently uses masks and elaborate costumes. Noh is the classical theatre of Japan which was codified in the 14th century under the father and son actors Kan'ami and Zeami under the patronage of the Shogun (supreme military leader) Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

The mask's fine features indicate nobility and are emphasised by the eyebrows painted high on the forehead and the restrained carving of the eyes, which lack any pronounced details of the natural eyebrows. The mask is less broad across the forehead and the lips and mouth are less full than is usual for the character of Zo-Onna. This mask represents a woman slightly younger than convention calls for. It is possible that this mask is a variant on that of the character of Waka-Onna, a younger woman. The configuration of the loose strands of hair is also unusual and follows the pattern 2, 4, 3. The cord holes are worn, especially on the outer painted surface where the black ink has been rubbed away indicating use in a performance.

The mask is used for female roles in many Noh plays, notably from the Third and Fourth Groups and depicts a slightly older woman (in her twenties?) as indicated by the thinner face. This mask is considered suitable for female roles which call for elegant refinement. Rokujo in Nonomiya or the Heavenly Maiden in Hagoromo (The Feather Mantle) might wear this mask. In this play the Heavenly Maiden, having retrived her feather robe back from the fisherman who took it, wears it as she dances in gratitude. Her heavenly nature is indicated by the elaborate phoenix headress she wears.

Physical description

Noh mask of Zo-Onna

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


late 18th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted Japanese cypress (hinoki) wood


Height: 20.9 cm, Width: 13.3 cm

Descriptive line

Woo, Japan, theatrical accessories, wood


East Asia Collection

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