Ko'omote, Noh Theatre Mask, Hand-carved

Mask K

Title: Noh theatre mask of Ko'omote (young girl)
Carved and painted hinoki (cypress).
Size: 21 x 13.2 cm

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.


Most familiar of the onna-men (female masks), ko-omote represents a pure and innocent young girl in her teens. Still blissfully ignorant about life, her naivete can occasionally make her seem a little unforgiving. 'Ko' in Ko-omote means pretty or lovely, with graceful curves that characterise this mask. While the mouth has a charming fulness with a hint of a smile, the corner of the eyes betrays a sharpness of character perhaps in keeping with her maiden status.

More Information
Dimensions21 x 13.2 cm
Condition ReportPolychrome pigments and gesso over wood. Well-worn with external areas showing aged wood patina. Some scratches on the hair area. Pigment slightly chipped on the bottom edge. With fabric pouch.
SubjectBeauty & Female