Museum Folkwang
  • Japanese Theatre Masks

  • The collection of Japanese theater masks in the Museum Folkwang contains 29 objects and is thus among the largest holding of this type in Europe. Half of the collection is of Nô dance theater masks and the other of Kyôgen comedy masks. Nô and Kyôgen belong together and embody contrasts; they characterize seriousness and laughter, pathos and parody, the spiritual world and life on earth.
    In contrast with their original use in popular religious theater, the use and significance of these masks changed under the influence of the nobles who carried on the theater tradition. Use of masks in Nô and especially in Kyôgen was strictly limited In Nô, only the leading figure Shite and his companions wore masks, in Kyôgen masks were only used in a few pieces.
    The face masks are made from wood with much inlay work, come primarily from the 16th to the 19th centuries and show various traces of use. The smaller-than-life-sized masks do not quite cover the human face; the actor embodying a character on the stage remains visible under the mask.

    The collection features two particularly exquisite kyôgen masks from different periods, portraying a plain, not particularly pretty woman and known as oto or okame. The okame as a woman’s mask is representative of the kyôgen, while the ›ko-omote‹ mask, which also depicts a young woman and may be by the renowned woodcarver Kodama Omi who died in 1704, is the definitive female mask for the Nô form of theatre. We find a transformed version of this beautiful young woman into a crazy old lady in the ›deigan‹ mask (gold-painted eyes), which could be the work of woodcarver Deme Kogenkyû Mitsunaga (died 1672), a teacher of Kodama Omi. The technique on the inside of the mask may also suggest it is the work of the master Deme Tōhaku, who died in 1715.

    In the late 19th century Japanese arts and crafts gained great popularity in Europe. Japan had succeeded in maintaining its political and cultural sovereignty after the USA forced the country to open its doors to trade and in aligning its economy with Western industrialization. Now for the first time, Japanese objects were finding their way onto the European art market that had not been made for export, and were also highly valued at home. Like other contemporary artists, Düsseldorf Kunstakademie Professor and painter Benjamin Vautier built up an extensive collection of theatre masks, which he bequeathed to Museum Folkwang.
  • Exh_Title_S: Japanese Theatre Masks
  • Exh_Id: 500
  • Exh_Comment_S (Verantw): Archaeology, Global Art, Applied Arts
  • Exh_SpareNField01_N (Verantw ID): 185
Jûroku oder Waka-otoko
  • Deme Kogenkyû Mitsunaga oder Deme Tôhaku Mitsutaka
  • Deigan, 17. Jh.

  • Facial mask for Noh Theatre
    Bleary-eyed, old madwoman
  • Inv. KPL 62
Oto-goze / Okame
Nô-Gewand (atsuita-karaori)