A PRIVATE COLLECTION OF MASKS AND COSTUMES FOR THE NOH THEATER
This collection of Noh masks and robes once belonged to the Yamanouchi, a daimyo family in Tosa province (now Kochi Prefecture). Since the time it was ruled by the Chosokabe family, the Tosa domain had a close relationship with Kyoto nobility in terms of scholarship, culture and fashion. Toyoshige, the second-generation head of the Yamanouchi family who lived during the Kan'ei era (1624-29), and Toyotada, the third-generation head during the Kanbun era (1661-72), were probably the clan's first patrons of the Kita school of Noh actors. There are several robes in the collection that date from the mid-Edo period.
By the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912) the Yamanouchi, like so many other old daimyo families, fell on hard times, and their collection of paintings as well as their Noh masks and robes and even their Noh stage passed into the hands of a wealthy merchant family in the Tosa domain, the Kawasaki, who are said to have been money lenders.
The Kita school, one of the five major troupes of professional Noh actors in the role of principal player (Shite kata), was officially founded in 1618 by a man from the amateur ranks named Shichidayu (1586-1653), making it the youngest of the five leading Noh schools, the others being Kanze, Hosho, Komparu and Kongo. The Tokugawa shogunate patronized the Kita school in the Edo period (the head families lived in the capital of Edo) and many of the daimyo studied Kita-school Noh. They admired Shichidayu's broad, gaudy and entertaining style, described as similar to a plum tree in full bloom that could fill the largest room. Around 1619, for example, the Kita school became the official Noh school of the Asano clan in Aki (now the western part of Hiroshima Prefecture) and began staging performances at Itsukushima Shrine. The Kita school went into decline in the Meiji period but has recently been revived.
Noh is the oldest surviving professional theater, a form of poetic dance-drama originating around Kyoto the 14th century and revolving largely around the inner lives of ghosts. The principal character, usually masked and wearing a magnificent costume, performs on a small, undecorated stage shared with musicians playing drums and flute and a chorus chanting narration or inner thoughts in poetic language. Movement is solemn and slow. The supporting character is often a priest who intercedes for the lead character and frees him of his karma. Noh became the official entertainment of the shogunate and of regional daimyo, who patronized actor troupes and competed in accumulating the finest masks and costumes.
In the words of the Noh costume historian Monica Bethe, "the rich gorgeous brocades, embroidered satins, and diaphanous glittering gauzes that are labeled 'No costume' in a museum were originally intended to be draped in layers over an actor, molding him into the image of a role." 1 In the photo shown here, the actor, wearing the subtle mask of a beautiful young woman and the tall court cap of a professional shirabyoshi dancer, performs in front of a great temple bell covered in purple silk, the main prop in this play. The outer robe worn by the actor is a brocaded karaori robe with design of weeping cherry. There are two inner robes. The first is a dark-ground nuihaku with an embroidered design of round crests worn as skirts in koshimaki style hanging from the waist. The second is a surihaku with design of triangular scales in silver leaf on white silk (see lot 390; for the demon mask, see lot 327) representing the serpentine--and evil--form the actor assumes at the climax of the play when he leaps into the bell just as it comes crashing down on stage and covers him.
Some costumes are dictated by social status (a priest will wear a simple traveling cloak), but most are not so realistic. On the unadorned stage, costumes evoke the atmosphere of the play. Certain costumes such as the kariginu, suo and sashinuki are based on ancient court robes. The choken is a cloak originally associated with the court but transformed for use on stage. Robes such as the karaori and surihaku and cloaks such as maiginu and mizugoromo were created specifically for the Noh theater. The origin of some garments, notably the happi and sobatsugi, is uncertain.
1. Monica Bethe, "The Uses of Costume in No Drama," Five Centuries of Japanese Kimono in The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18, no. 1 (1992), p. 7.
Types of Noh Costumes
I. Costumes in the form of kosode (prototype of the modern kimono) with sleeves made of a single width of fabric and having a small opening for the arm.
A kosode made usually of twill weave but sometimes in plain weave and patterned in supplementary weft floats shorter than those used in karaori. The patterns may be large motifs in strong colors used to create startling contrasts. Worn mainly for male roles.
A kosode made of warp-float faced twill weave with supplementary brocading wefts of long floats that resemble needlework. An outer robe primarily for female roles.
An inner robe in the form of kosode.
A kosode worn as an inner robe woven in plain weave that is lustrous or glossy. The patterning is in stripes used horizontally or in plaids.
A kosode patterned in a combination of embroidery and stenciled gold or silver leaf. Used mainly for female roles as an outer or an inner robe.
A kosode, usually white or red, with patterning created by impressing gold or silver foil on an adhesive applied to the fabric through a stencil. An inner robe for the role of a woman tormented by a demon.
II. Outer garments with wide sleeves and a large opening for the arm
Literally "long silk." A free-falling unlined dancing cloak of gauze-weave fabric. Used mainly for female roles.
A lined or unlined short coat. The front and back panels, which are not seamed at the sides, are held together at the hemline with a wide band. Worn to imitate armor in the roles of military generals.
Matched lined suits of hemp worn for roles representing the military class.
Literally "hunting silk." A round-necked cloak, either unlined or lined. Worn for the role of nobleman or a male deity.
Literally "dancing silk." An unlined dancing cloak usually made of gauze weave fabric. Longer than the choken, it overlaps in the front and is worn belted. The front and back panels are seamed partway down the sides. Used for female roles.
Literally "water cloak." An traveling cloak, either lined or unlined. Used for both male and female roles.
A sleeveless version of the happi. It also simulates armor but is worn for the roles of soldiers, not generals.
Matched unlined suits of hemp worn for roles representing the military class. Identical to the hitatare in fabric (plain-weave hemp), method of patterning (stenciled paste-resist patterns) and style, but unlined. The coat (a jacket with double-width sleeves) and matching trousers (hakama) are worn for the roles of low-ranking soldiers, villagers and others. They differ from hitatare in having crests at the chest and upper back.
III. Skirtlike trousers or hakama
Literally "long hakama." A long version of the standard men's hakama, these are long, trailing pleated pants, often forming the bottom part of a matched suit, and worn for roles representing the military class. Waistband sashes are attached to the front and back.
Long pleated trousers gathered at the ankles and worn by noblemen under kariginu.
The information given here is taken from:
Mary V. Hays and Ralph E. Hays, "No Drama Costumes and Other Japanese Costume in The Art Institute of Chicago," Five Centuries of Japanese Kimono in The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18, no. 1 (1992), 26-27.
Sharon Sadako Takeda, Miracles and Mischief: Noh and Kyogen Theater in Japan, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2003).