Noh Theater began around
the 14th century as a ritual offering in Japanese temples and shrines. Among sixty
primary designs in Noh masks, two of the most loved onna-men: Ko-Omote represents
a girl in her teens, and Magojiro represents a young woman of feminine beauty,
a tint of nobility and grace embedded into the perfect symmetry, and a
smile no less intriguing than that of Mona Lisa. Hence carving the Magojiro is
considered as the ultimate technical challenge and a spiritual quest for mask
carvers. Reading from the sumi inscription in the mask interior, we learned that
Mata of Yamamoto (in Sanuki Province) carved this masterpiece at the age of eighty.
Chisel by chisel, he worked simultaneously in front-and-backside of the mask,
and upon completing the carvings, layers of kaolin primer is applied to build-up
the paper thin surface, only then multiple coats of white pigment was painted,
and finished with a final coat of black lacquer for her hair. In view of this
exquisite paper-thin wood mask, the spirit and mystique in the Noh performance
is keenly observed in this rare find.