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Noh mask - Tsurimanako


  • Object:

    Noh mask

  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    17th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tenka-ichi Zekan (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and painted cypress (J.hinoki) wood

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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 performances utilise masks and elaborate costume.

The demonic Noh mask of Tsurimanako is carved from a single piece of hinoki over which a layer of gofun has been applied. The flesh tones are a golden yellowish colour which has worn in places to give a paler hue - notably on the chin, cheekbones and at the edges of the mask. The eyes are a large elongated oval shape and are sunken with a hooded upper lid. The forehead recedes with a small ridge in the middle over a bulbous protuberance at the bridge of the nose. The cheekbones are long and angular and are carved sharply from the small but broad and slightly hooked nose. The lips are pulled back in a grimace which reveals both upper and lower sets of teeth and the lower jaw is thrust out.

The teeth are painted gold (typical for a demonic character) and are emphasised by a coarse line of thick blue-black paint next to the red painted lips. The gilt metal disks of the eyes are missing and that part of the eye has been painted gold with the surrounding area accentuated with painted red rims. The edges of the eye are also accentuated by a similar thick layer of the same type of blue-black paint as that used on the teeth. This paint lies in small granules on the surface of the eye. The hair on the temples, eyebrows, moustache and beard are very precisely painted in sensitive wispy lines of sumi.

The interior of the mask is stained a dark brown and there are skilfully cut chisel marks - broad horizontal and thin vertical - visible under the brown stain. The inner surface of the chin has, in addition to the thick horizontal chisel marks, a chevron pattern of finer marks cut diagonally from the lower lip. The inner edges of the mask have developed a patina through regular use. The two cord holes show signs of wear; there is deterioration to the inner surface of the mask as well as to the gofun and painted exterior.

The mask represents the God of Thunder. Great metallic gold eyeballs with large holes as pupils beneath a sharp ridge of the eyebrows dominate the mask. The eyes are lined with blue and vermillion paint. The wide-open mouth stretching across the face to expose long rows of the upper and lower teeth, the tightly bulging cheeks, and a large, flat nose create a forceful expression. Except for the black-painted ‘crown’ on the top of the mask, the entire mask is painted in gold. The mask is used mostly in plays of the First Group such as Kamo and Arashiyama, as well as plays of the Fifth Group such as Kuzu. It can replace the mask of Otobide to depict the God of Thunder, or can be used for the play Kuzu where the unusual features of the mask are suitable to depict a Buddha. The Umewaka family possess a good example of Tsurimanako which is attributed to Deme Yukan Mitsuyasu (d.1652).

Physical description

Noh mask of Tsurimanako

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


17th century (made)


Tenka-ichi Zekan (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted cypress (J.hinoki) wood

Marks and inscriptions

Tenka-ichi Zekan
'First Under Heaven' Zekan
Tenka-ichi is an honorary title.


Height: 21.1 cm, Width: 15.1 cm

Descriptive line

Woo, Japan, theatrical accessories, wood

Production Note

Early Edo


East Asia Collection

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