ITEM 5479

Noh mask of Chūjō

Japan
Edo period, 18th C.
Wood, gesso, polychrome pigments
Kiribako storage box
Mask: 21 (h) x 13.7 x 7.8 cm

The Chūjō mask portrays Heian-period poet and nobleman, Ariwara no Narihira (Zai Go-chūjō, 825–880), who gained the court rank of Chūjō or captain, at the age of 53. The expression represents that of an elegant, graceful aristocrat, with high eyebrows that conventionally indicate someone of high court rank. However, two distinct vertical wrinkles where the eyebrows meet the bridge of the nose impart a certain sadness.

The mask could be worn for the role of a handsome young nobleman or that of an aristocratic warrior of the Heike clan who dies on the battlefield. Worn by the leading player, shite シテ, in the second act of plays like URIN’IN 雲林院 and MICHIMORI 通盛, where the gentle, tragic side of the warrior class is emphasized.

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