Noh mask of Zo-Onna thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Noh mask of Zo-Onna

Noh Mask
late 18th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved and painted Japanese cypress (hinoki) wood
Brief Description
Woo, Japan, theatrical accessories, wood
Physical Description
Noh mask of Zo-Onna
Dimensions
  • Height: 20.9cm
  • Width: 13.3cm
Style
Subject depicted
Summary
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.
Collection
Accession Number
578C-1886

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record createdMarch 4, 2003
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