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Antique Signed Japanese Gigaku Mask Men of KONGO (Nio)

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Sculpture: Pre 1920: Item # 822940
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Signed (Meiji~Taisho Period) Antique Gigaku Mask of KONGO

This marvelous piece is made by Onkodo Akimizu-Sensei as represented with the original box that comes with it. The flawless fear and awe it brings gives justice to its history and roots and appearance.

Measurements: Height x Width = 33.8 x 27.5 cm

Japanese masks are part of a very old and highly sophisticated and stylized theatrical tradition. Although the roots are in prehistoric myths and cults they have developed into refined art forms. The oldest masks are the gigaku. The form no longer exists, and was probably a type of dance presentation. The bugaku developed from this – a complex dance-drama that used masks with moveable jaws.

Grotesque wooden mask worn by participants in gigaku, a type of Japanese dance drama. Gigaku masks are the first known masks used in Japan and among the world’s oldest extant masks. Soon after a Korean musician named Mimashi imported gigaku plays into Japan from China, in 612, Japanese artisans began to carve gigaku masks after Chinese models. Because the plays were often performed out-of-doors at court or temple, the masks were given greatly exaggerated features so they would retain their comic effect when viewed at a distance.

The oldest existing masks in any quantity are those used in gigaku. Gigaku is an ancient dance drama that was brought to Japan from the mainland in the early 7th century. Tradition has it that a person named Mimashi had brought the dance dramas from what is now Korea, but that he had learned them from the region of Wu in China. These dances flourished during the Nara period and continued until the Edo period when the tradition died out. It appears that these masked dance performances were mime or dance processionals accompanied by music. There is an excellent set of camphor wood gigaku masks, about 150 in number, that are in the Shosoin repository of Todaiji temple. Gigaku performances were sung accompanied by flute, tsutsumi drum and cymbals. There are existing manuscripts for the music, but there is little to describe the nature of the gigaku dancing. Gigaku masks are different from subsequent masks.They cover the head including the ears, while later masks only cover the face. There are fourteen different gigaku masks composed in a set. Many of the masks have large proboscis. Gigaku masks were generally made from paulownia wood, although there are examples of dry lacquer masks. Because gigaku was a dance drama, a more dramatic expression was carved into the mask. Shadings, and black outlines around the features heightened that drama. Hair was also pasted on some masks. Different mask styles include: lion heads, bird-beaked creatures, demons and superhumans. Gigaku mask designs seemed to have been influenced by a number of cultures on the mainland including, India, present day Indonesia, and China.

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