By Gyosui, signed Gyosui saku with seal Gyosui
Japan, Nara, early 20th century
Finely carved and lacquered to depict an elderly man with a long aquiline nose, full red lips forming a smile, elongated earlobes, and deeply carved wrinkles. The eyes and mouth are pierced. The back with a label inscribed Kokuho gigakumen wo mosu, Todaiji Koshofu-men, GYOSUI saku (‘Made by Gyosui, a replica Gigaku mask based on the original Taikofu Gigaku mask at the Todaiji Temple’), with the seal GYOSUI. Rich, dark patina.
HEIGHT 26 cm
Condition: Good condition with some wear and simulated wear, minor age cracks, flaking and losses to lacquer, tiny chips to edges, possibly few minor old repairs.
This mask represents a lonely old man and is paired with Daikoji. It was carved by Gyosui, a pupil of Kano Tessai (1845-1925), who was engaged in copying ancient works of art from the Shoso-in repository in Nara.
This mask represents one of many varied and colorful characters of the masked dance drama called Gigaku, of which some are grotesque, some of Indian and Persian appearance, some from Buddhism and some from Brahmanism. According to the Nihon Shoki, Gigaku was brought to Japan by one Mimashi, an immigrant from Baekche, Korea in 612. It originated in the Chinese kingdom of Wu, or Kure in Japanese, and was also known as Kure no Uta Mai (Song and Dance of Kure). The drama was performed in the recently built temples of Nara which were then the centers of learning and culture, and the Nihon Shoki further records that envoys from Silla were entertained with a performance of Gigaku at the Kawahara temple in 692. Masks of the period survive in the Horyuji and Todaiji temples, with more than a hundred preserved in the Shosoin repository, some with ink inscriptions of dates and the names of the characters. Among them some are dated 9 April 752 showing that they were used in celebrations accompanying the ‘Eye Opening’ ceremony for the great bronze Buddha in the Todaiji in that year. The Todaiji records indicate sixty musicians and four ‘Gigaku Masters’ present at the ceremony.
Compare a similar mask from the Todaiji temple collection, possibly the original, illustrated in Nihon no Chokoku 4, Tenpyo Jidai (Bijutsu Shuppansha 1952).
A carved and polychrome wood mask of Taikofu, dated to the 7th century (Asuka period), is in the Tokyo National Museum, no. N-216.
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