Wakaon'na, Noh Mask of a Woman, 20th century

Mask V

Title: Wakaon'na - Noh Mask of a Woman 
Artist: Kusumoto Nohaku
Date: 20th century 
Size: 21.5 x 13.5 cm

Carved and painted hinoki (cypress). Polychrome pigments and gesso over wood. Well-worn with external areas showing aged wood patina. Some scratches on the hair area, especially around the string holes. 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.


Face of an elegant beauty. The mature expression can be seen in the clear eyes, high forehead (not as broad as ko-omote or magojiro), lingering smile, and smooth cheeks. The oval outlines of the face and wide-set eyes, thin high eyebrows, and hairstyle. Two loose strands emanate at the part and are pulled back above the eyebrows, where three new strands begin to fall down along the side of the cheek.

To compete with other schools of Noh, Kanzei school of Noh had ordered master mask makers to create Waka-onna at the beginning of Edo period.

More Information
Dimensions21.5 x 13.5 cm
SubjectBeauty & Female
Product Date20th century