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AN IMPRESSIVE PALE WOOD GIGAKU MASK NETSUKE OF SUIKO-JU
LOT 291 - NE0421

Unsigned
Japan, 19th century, Edo period (1615-1868)

Published: Bushell, Raymond (1985) Netsuke Masks, pl. 7 (also illustrated on the spine of the slip case).
Netsuke Kenkyukai Study Journal (1985), Vol. 5, no. 3, p. 16, fig. 2.

Expressively carved with neatly detailed features, such as full lips, arched eyebrows over similarly slanted eyes, centered by a small bump above the hooked nose with broad nostrils, and slender lips forming a cheerful smile, flanked by long pendulous earlobes. The nostrils, mouth, and one eye are pierced. The highly polished wood of an attractive color and grain.

HEIGHT 4.6 cm

Condition: Excellent condition with only minor surface wear.
Provenance: Ex-collection Raymond Bushell. European collection P. Jacquesson, acquired from Sotheby’s, 21 March 2001, New York.

Suiko-ju is the follower of Suiko-o, according to Raymond Bushell, “both are drunken revelers. They are either Central Asian or Iranian, but the identification is uncertain.”

Although the present netsuke is unsigned, the superb quality and level of craftsmanship clearly indicate the work of a master. Mask netsuke were often imitations of full-size Noh masks (or other theatrical masks), with the highest regard for authenticity, and out of respect for this old art form the masks were often not signed.

Literature comparison:
A carved wood mask of Suiko-ju, dated to the 7th century (Asuka period) and very likely the model for the present mask netsuke, is in the Tokyo National Museum, no. N-223, and described as follows: “This mask can really be considered to be a laughing drunk. As the back of the head is made of the same wood, the mask covers the back of the head rather shallowly. This mask is not only more excellent than the other four Suiko-jû (N-220, N-221, N-222 and N-223), but is also one of the most excellent masks among all the Gigaku masks.”

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