Japanese antique show returns to Nevada City
Kodo Arts Japanese Antiques hosts its semi-annual fall show and sale at its Nevada City warehouse, 571 Searls Ave., today through Oct. 13.
The warehouse is only open to the public twice a year in October and May. Kodo owners source their finds from wholesale around the country or in Japan at antique markets and auctions for unusual and usable pieces. Most of the pieces are from the late 1800s to post-war 1950 Japan.
This show features a collection of Japanese masks from their rich folk art tradition. Masks that protect the home from fires or invite prosperity, masks from the Noh theater and fun masks from festivals. Made from wood and pottery, these masks each have a special place in the Japanese heart.
Noh theater masks are actually used in Noh plays around New Year’s. There are young girl masks, kind old men and fierce demon masks. They are painstakingly carved by masters out of cypress wood and finished with a crushed oyster shell paint. The festival masks include Tengu, a goblin with a long nose. Tengu are spirits of the forest and are associated with the Buddhist ascetic practice known as Shugend, and they are usually depicted in the distinctive garb of its followers, the yamabushi.
The hannya mask is the vengeful and jealous woman turned demon. Pointed horns, metallic eyes and teeth and the expression all exhibit the full wrath, anger and resentment of her nature. The origins of hannya masks may have come from early snake masks, but most likely the image was taken from painted hand scrolls of stories and legends of the Muromachi period. In fact, one of the oldest hannya masks is dated 1558. Of course, the most prominent feature is the horns.
Even to this day, a hand gesture of two index fingers sticking up from a man’s forehead is an indication that his wife is mad at him or jealous. The coloring of the face also signifies the degree of passion in the demon’s anger.
For example, a more reddish color indicates strong resentment and anger and is used in such plays as “Dodoji” and “Kurozuka,” whereas a paler color would be more appropriate for Aoi-no-ue. “Dodoji” is the story of unrequited love between a woman and a priest of Dodoji (temple). She turns into a demonic serpent who wraps her body around the temple bell, consuming it and the priest in the process.
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