Anniversary Projects

Masterpieces of Early Modern Noh Masks: The “Tenkaichi” Mask Makers

January 2, 2023 (Mon) - February 26, 2023 (Sun)

Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 14

Noh theater is a traditional Japanese performing art. It attained its completed form during the Muromachi period (1392–1573), with many new Noh masks produced during this time. Noh became a cherished pastime of the warrior class and this led to soaring demand for copies of famous masks. From 1593 to 1682, the most accomplished replica makers were awarded the name “Tenkaichi.” Their copies would perfectly replicate the originals, from the facial features and inner carving to the maker’s branded seal and any cracks and blemishes. Despite this fidelity, the individuality of these replica masters still shines through in these works.

Major Works in this Exhibition

Noh Mask: Heita, With branded mark “Tenkaichi Zekan”, Azuchi-Momoyama-Edo period, 16th-17th century

Noh Mask: Zō'onna, With branded mark “Tenkaichi Yamato”, Edo period, 17th century (Lent by Agency for Cultural Affairs)

Kyōgen Mask: Buaku, With carved inscription “Tenkaichi Suminobō”, Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century