Until Fri, 2nd Jun 2023

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Lot 83 - JAP0522

Buy now for €8,125.00

Lot details

Japan, c. 1700, Edo period (1615-1868)

The gigantic head boldly rendered with a fierce expression, marked by a large pair of dramatically reverse-painted glass eyes below furrowed brows, a broad nose with flared nostrils, the mouth wide open to reveal bone-inlaid teeth and a movable tongue. The head, brows, and chin neatly adorned with real horsehair.

His elaborate crown is finely lacquered in gold and black, with a central jewel on a lotus flower surrounded by four spires in front of a scrolling top, inscribed, and decorated with billowing clouds and key fret.

HEIGHT 81 cm

Condition: Excellent condition, commensurate with size and age. The details (eyes, teeth, tongue, hair) all original and quite well preserved. Some chips, losses, natural age cracks, abrasions and old wear, traces of wear, splits, old repairs and touchups.
Provenance: From an old south German private collection, assembled between 1970 and ca. 2000. Thence by descent.

The present mask, larger than two average human heads, is almost unchanged since its creation some 250 years ago, with its original details made from a variety of materials all still intact. Its massive power and vigorous spirit have been exceptionally well-preserved through the centuries, and as such an imposing piece it must be considered as extremely rare.

Buddhists believe in reincarnation, but many schools of Buddhism hold that a sinful person is punished for a period of time between death and rebirth in one of several levels of Hell. Emma-o, a powerful and fearsome figure, decides this future fate of all deceased, sometimes singly and sometimes as part of a group of ten Hell Judges. For this reason, the image of Emma-o is a focus for prayers from the living, who ask for leniency for their recently departed loved ones.

Literature comparison:
Compare a closely related figure of Emma - o, King and Judge of Hell, 16th century, wood with gesso and traces of polychromes and inlaid glass eyes, 48 cm, in the Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. H. George Mann, accession number 79.277.


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