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

Mask J

Title: Koshijo (Noh mask of an old man)
Size: 19.5 x 16 cm

Carved and polished hinoki (cypress). Well-worn with external areas showing aged wood patina. Worn out edges. Empty series of holes on the forehead, where hair might have been inserted. 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.

Koshijo (old man)

This type of mask takes its name from its creator, Koushi, a mask maker who was a near-contemporary of Zeami. It has the most dignified appearance among variants of masks representing old men, but the features are tense, with a hairless moustache engraved below the nose and only the upper teeth showing. The mask is worn by leading actors playing old men who are incarnations of deities in god plays. The dignity of the characters is also reflected in their clothing, such as kimono with small cross-stripes, white broad hakama trousers, or thin coats with wide sleeves.

More Information
Dimensions19.5 x 16 cm
SubjectSamurai & Male
Product Date19th century