Doji, Noh Mask of a Young Boy, 19th century

Mask R

Title: Doji - Noh Mask of a Young Boy
Date: 19th century 
Size: 20.5 x 14 cm

Carved and painted hinoki (cypress). Polychrome pigments and gesso over wood. Well-worn with external areas showing aged wood patina. Worn out string holes. Small scratch on the left-hand side that has been restored. Seal on the back. 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.


Doji represents a young boy, with a face slightly rounded and feminine, almost androgynous. Although in Japanese the word 'doji' means 'child', in Noh it refers to a divine being symbolising eternal youth. The strands of hair covering the boy's brow are painted with great delicacy. His elegant, arched eyebrows and upturned mouth combine to create an impish air of mystery.

More Information
Dimensions20.5 x 14 cm
SubjectSamurai & Male
Product Date19th century