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Noh Theater

“Noh” in Japanese means talent. It refers to a major form of Japanese traditional musical drama
performed since the 14th century (1336-1573). Noh integrates a variety of art forms,
such as acrobatics, songs, dance and farce. A performance with masks, costumes, props
and dance composition, this kind of drama is based on traditional Japanese literary works.
The traditional Noh stage consists of a pavilion style, where the costumes that actors
wear are adorned richly, and always have symbolic meaning. In its early days, Noh
Theater, was a genre that belonged to social outcasts; however, audiences of the Noh
Theater were mostly the elite. The relationship between the audience and the performers
was therefore hierarchical.

In this display, there are different types of masks, female, demonic, youngster
and old man. The two masks of the young women, while expressing the same emotion,
represent two different materials from which Noh masks are made, wood and lacquered
wood.

A Noh performance consists of five plays, lasting all day. Noh plays fall into
five categories: Kami mono, featuring human interaction with deities; Shura mono,
having the presence of ghosts; Katsura mono, often featuring a female role and musical
performance; Kyōran mono, presenting madness and set in the present time; and Kiri nō,
featuring monsters.

Click here to watch a brief video explaining the history of Noh theater followed by a short performance: https://youtu.be/ModfyW8wDvo

Noh Character
Japanese, 20th century
ink and watercolor on mica flecked paper
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.218

Noh Character
Japanese, 20th century
ink and watercolor on mica flecked paper
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.219

Noh Character
Japanese, 20th century
ink and watercolor on mica flecked paper
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.217

Noh Mask of a Young Woman
Japanese, 19th – 20th century
carved wood and painted kanshitsu (dried lacquer)
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.24

Noh Mask, Character with Fangs
Japanese, 19th century
carved and painted wood
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.15

Noh Mask of a Horned Demon
Japanese, 19th – 20th century
carved and painted wood
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.31

Noh Mask of an Old Man with White Beard
Japanese, 19th – 20th century
carved and painted wood
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.27

Noh Mask of an Adult Aristocrat (Chu-jyo)
Japanese, 19th – 20th century
carved and painted wood
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.26

Noh Mask of Kobuaku
Japanese, 19th – 20th century
carved and painted wood
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.20

Noh Mask of a Young Woman
Japanese, 19th – 20th century
carved and painted wood
Gift of Arthur E. Klauser '45, 1991.11.25