Far East, Japan, Edo to Meiji period, ca. mid 19th to early 20th century CE. Striking and expressive, this Japanese gigaku mask depicts Karura, a major Buddhist deity based on the gigantic birds of Hinduism known as Garuda. It was made via the kanshitsu (mixed wood fiber, lacquer as a binder and plaster or powdered oyster shell as an extender, pressed into a mold) molding technique. The colorful finish was created via a dry lacquer technique known as dakkatsu kanshitsu with additional gilding highlighting the eyes and central crest. Size: 5" W x 7.5" H (12.7 cm x 19 cm), 11.5" H (29.2 cm) on stand.
Inside of the mask is a piece of fabric/tape inscribed with characters that identify it as a Karura mask. Karura is a Buddhist deity similar to a Garuda. Karura is one of the fourteen characters in the gigaku, a religious dance-drama that was performed for the Japanese royal court at Buddhist temple ceremonies from the 7th to the 10th century. In the performance, Karura is a mythical giant bird that protects the Buddhist faith. Gigaku masks are the oldest type of Japanese existing masks. Since the plays were traditionally performed in the outdoors at court or temple, the artists who created these masks usually enhanced their visages with exaggerated features, as we see in this example, so they would to maintain their comic effect, even when viewed from afar.
Provenance: Ex-private Morgan Collection, Santa Fe, NM
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