Ishiojo, Noh Mask of an Old Man, 19th century

Mask T

Title: Ishiojo - Noh Mask of an Old Man
Date: 19th century
Size: 21 x 14 cm

Carved and painted hinoki (cypress). Well-worn with external areas showing aged wood patina. Top hair and beard made from worn out, natural horse hair. Small cracks around the eyes and mouth. Chipped area restored under the tip of the nose. With fabric pouch.

Original Japanese antique.


Evolving under shogunate patronage from the 14th century, Noh theatre became an exclusive samurai pastime. In the Tokugawa period (1603 – 1868), commoners were forbidden to see it. Performed by male actors wearing masks, Noh dramas fall into five categories, plays about gods, women, insanity, revenge and demons.

Performed against a painted backdrop of a pine tree and with minimal props, Noh features lavish silk brocade costumes and exquisitely fashioned wooden masks. The masks are designed and crafted with great subtlety. They can appear to dramatically transform simply from the alterations of light and shadow as the actors move their heads. The pace is hypnotically slow, but the movement delivers great dramatic power.

Noh masks are carved from a single piece of wood painted with natural pigments. The mask represents age, gender and social ranking of human or nonhuman beings like animals, demons or divine creatures. The Noh mask is used to emphasize and stylize the facial expressions which are accompanied with adequate body language and movement in order to stimulate the imagination of Noh play audiences.


The name ‘Ishio-jo’ comes from the creator of the mask, Ishio Byoe who was a Noh mask carver in the 15th century. This Ishio-jo mask has noble features which are expressed by its deep-set downcast eyes and its white teeth visible from the red lips on the white skin face. With beard hairs only the jaw, the Ishio-jo has the moustache on the top and bottom lip and eyebrows hand drawn. The mask with noble and blessed presence is used for the role of ‘a spirit of willow’ in the story 'Yugyoyanagi' or ‘Sumiyoshi Myojin God’ in the story 'Hakurakuten'.

More Information
Dimensions21 x 14 cm
SubjectSamurai & Male
Product Date19th century