Horned Noh mask of a Hannya (an angry female spirit)

Place details: ASIA. Japan / Unknown. Cultural Group: Japanese: Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Wood Plant / Pigment / Copper Alloy Metal / ?. Processes: Painted / Carved / ?. Weight: 206.3 g Dimensions: Max L = 220 mm Max W = 170 mm Maker: Unknown Field Collector: Unknown When Collected: ?Prior to 1880 Other Owners: Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers. This object was listed in the Delivery Catalogue as having been transferred from South Kensington Museum in 1884. It was delivered to South Kensington Museum in September 1880. It was probably displayed at South Kensington Museum between 1880 - 1884. PRM Source: Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection Acquired: Donated 1884 Other Numbers: 350 PR No.: 350/ 11351

KEYWORD: Mask / CLASS: Mask / Theatre and Drama / ?.

Publications history, trails & websites: Featured in Out in Oxford: An LGBTQ+ Trail of the University of Oxford's Collections. Part of 'Celebrating Diversity' a project funded by Arts Council England via the Oxford University Museums Partnership and created with the LGBTQ+ community. [NC 16/02/2017]

See booklet Out in Oxford: An : An LGBTQ+ Trail of the University of Oxford's Collections (published by University of Oxford) [in RDF]: Noh (Nō) theatre has a fluid approach to gender; its actors perform both male and female roles with sophisticated masks. This example is a typical representation of Hannya, a woman betrayed by her lover, whose jealous rage transforms her into a demon. Although it seems like a simple prop, it is a sacred object that allows the actor to become one with a character, regardless of their own gender. Noh shares with modern gender theorists the view that gender is not the same as biological sex, but something that is performed through stylised actions. For example, in the 14th century women in Japan were banned from performing or even learning Noh. Female characters were then represented by male actors – they wore masks and altered their body movements to convey gendered traits. Since the 1950s, women’s participation in Noh theatre has witnessed a resurgence: today there are around 250 professional actresses who perform male and female characters (by Ruby Gilding). [NC 16/02/2017]

See webpage: http://www.glam.ox.ac.uk/outinoxford-prm [printout in RDF] : Many plays and stories that are popular from the Heian period (794-1185) onwards in Japan deal with the concept of gender as performative or changeable – decided by gendered actions rather than biological sex. This can be seen on a very basic level by the Pitt Rivers’ large collection of masks used in Nō (能) theatre, where men perform all genders. The Ashmolean similarly has a netsuke (根付), a carved toggle used to attach purses to traditional Japanese dress, which shows the popular semi-historical ‘warrior-woman’ (Onna-bugeisha, 女武芸者) Tomoe Gozen (巴 御前), as well as a 19th century print of another Onna-bugeisha, Hangaku Gozen (坂額御前) [1]. Stories of both Tomoe and Hangaku, who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries, are common. They are portrayed as the paragon of both masculine and feminine, being “fearless as a man and beautiful as a flower”. This idea of being ideal, irrespective, or in spite of, gender, is also reflected in the term Bishōnen (美少年). The term means a ‘beautiful youth’, but historically carries homosocial and homoerotic tones, allowing a non-traditional outlet for gender relations.  Although Bishōnen is more commonly applied to men, it describes a female in Torikaebaya Monogatari (とりかへばや物語); a female living as a man. The title means ‘If only I could exchange them! story’ and tells of two siblings who better fit the opposite gender (the English translation in the Bodleian Library is titled: ‘The Changelings’). In the story, a tengu (天狗), or spirit, curses two siblings to be discontent with their biological sex, essentially ‘gender dysphoria’. They are raised as a male-woman and a female-man, and so pass to adulthood and the court as such. It is an erotic story, and much focuses on the female courtier’s (Chūnagon, 中納言) dalliances with women. Other tales of Heian literature deal with male same-sex relationships (nanshoku, 男色) and the interchangeability of gender. In ‘The Tale of Genji’ (Genji monogatari, 源氏物語), spurned by a sister, Genji instead takes her pretty brother. In the existing diaries of contemporary aristocrats, Ōe Tadafusa, Fujiwara Yorinaga and Fujiwara Kanezane, it is clear that these relationships were not just in literature.  This gender variance is also seen in Nō (能) and Kabuki (歌舞伎) theatre, as women were forbidden from acting, as in Shakespeare’s Elizabethan England. One very famous Onnagata (女形), woman-playing male, said one could only do it well if they “lived as a woman in ordinary life”. Such actors, living as women, were deeply admired and attracted lovers of both sexes. The prevalence of any-gendered lovers remained in Japan until the 18th century, when increased contact with Christian Europe led to a decrying of homosexuality and the beginning of an oppressive two centuries for Japanese LGBTQ+ people (by Victoria Sainsbury). [NC 17/02/2017]

Research notes: Related Documents File - Typed transcription from the Bulletin of the Noh Research Institute No. 22, 1997, Hosei University Noh Research Institute, published 25 May 1998. By Nishino Haruo. Translated by Rachel Payne, Pembroke College, Oxford, October 1998: 'Hannya * no inscription or brand of any type. [Footnote 57: Hannya - the horned mask of an angry female spirit.]' [JN 23/10/2001]

Typed report on the Noh masks [1884.114.7 - 58 and 116 and 117] drawn up by Jeremy Coote. In the individual note that follows relating to this specific mask the references there may be to A, B and C refer as follows:

A = as listed on a description apparently printed in Yokohama, B = on the list compiled by T.K. Penniman from information from Arthur Waley's 'The No Masks of Japan' Henry Joly's "Legend in Japanese Art' and V.F. Weber's 'Ko-ji Ho-ten'. C = from information provided 17 June 1993 by Professor Fukushima Kazuo, Director of Research Archives for Japanese Music, Ueno Gakuen College Tokyo following a visit to the PRM in 1984. The information on this mask (1884.14.56) is as follows: Identified as A 'A devil' B 'Hannya a female demon or witch' as No.7. No inscription.

One of a set of 52 Noh or No masks for which the Museum also holds 51 silk covers (1884.114.59 - 109). An old label, surviving only as a photograph (NEG A9.F27.32; see RDF), listing all the masks in this collection, reads as follows:

'Old Japanese Masks used in the No-dances and other Theatrical performances, both religious and secular.

'The following is a description of the Masks, printed in YOKOHAMA:-

'These Masks were recently on view at the Exhibition at KIYOTO, the former capital of Japan, to which they were loaned by the owner, who is proprietor of a theatre in TOKIO. There are said to be only two superior collections in Japan, both of which are in the possession of ex-DAIMIOS. These Masks have been used in the No-dances and other Theatrical performances, both religious & secular, for many years. They were made by Buddhist Priests during their leisure hours, & the ages of the Masks, as given below, shew their antiquity.'

'[The List follows; see RDF for this and other identifications.]

'Notwithstanding the high taste for Art displayed in Japanese works the entire absence of nobility and elevation of character in all representations of the human form cannot fail to strike the observer.'

The masks were also identified by T. K. Penniman, from information gleaned from Arthur Waley's 'The No Masks of Japan', Henri Joly's 'Legend in Japanese Art' and V. F. Weber's 'Ko-ji Ho-ten'. See RDF for this and other identifications. [JC] The series was published in 1997 by Philip Green Educational Ltd, Studley Warwickshire. A copy of the card is in RDF [CW]

Please note, the original list of these masks has been found and is in Solander Box 2. [MdeA 2/2/2001]

The object tallies up with the notes from the Japanese scholars in the RDF. The inscription on the back of the mask tallies with the numbered photocopy/photograph. [JN 4/12/2001]