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Noh masks *noumen ”\–Ê representing women. This category divides broadly into three types: young, middle-aged, and old, each of which includes examples of 'normal' and of 'heightened' states of being. By far the most numerous, the young women's masks have blackened upper teeth slightly exposed between smiling red lips, full cheeks, rectangular pupil openings, high-set eyebrows and black hair with a white band at the center part. Today they are classified into many subtly distinct characters, each with a name and personality, and used in regulated ways according to the traditions of each school of noh actors. When the type first came into being in the 14c however, the early examples were simply referred to as 'young woman' *wakaonna Žá— and used, presumably as the actor saw fit. Zeami ¢ˆ¢–í (1363-1443) in his youth is known to have portrayed roles of young women barefaced, as is still done in kyougen ‹¶Œ¾ performances today. Only when older actors began to perform these most-demanding and sublime of the roles in noh, did masks of young women come into being. The open, ingenuous expression, free carving and immediacy of the early masks contrasts with the highly controlled and prescribed details of the later masks bearing specific names. Although the painting has flaked off many of the early masks, one can make out details not found in later masks, such as eye lashes, or the lack of a center hair part and of the absence of individual loose strands of hair lying along the forehead and cheek. The last was to become a highly regulated feature of the named masks and functioned as an iconoclastic identification of mask types. Some striking examples of early wakaonna masks can be found in shrine and temple treasure houses, such as one dated 1469 at Rin'ouji —Ö‰¤Ž› in Tochigi prefecture, or the 15c mask at Niu Kawakami Jinja ’O¶ìã_ŽÐ in Nara. Today young women masks include the standard masks of each school (*koomote ¬–Ê, *magojirou ‘·ŽŸ˜Y, wakaonna, *fushikizou ß–Ø‘ and their variations used for a wide variety of roles plus masks with troubled expressions for crazed women *masugami \¡”¯, etc.), with sublime expressions for angels zou ‘, and with subtly intense expressions for women with divine qualities *deigan “DŠá. Middle-aged women have leaner faces, with unsmiling lips and heavy eyelids often shadowed by the eye socket bones. Fine 15c examples, labeled simply 'woman' onna —, can be found, for instance, at Suwa-asugi Jinja {”gˆ¢{‹^_ŽÐ in Fukui prefecture. and Oki Jinja ‘§_ŽÐ in Shizuoka prefecture. Of note also are two broad-faced masks, with curling slit eyes, short foreheads and no white strip at the hair part. One, dated 1291 and reminiscent of both Korean masks and the okina mask (*okinamen ‰¥–Ê, *enmeikaja ‰„–½Š¥ŽÒ), is an Important Cultural Property owned by Chuusonji ’†‘¸Ž› in Iwate prefecture; the other, also 13c, is property of Hakusan Chouryuu Jinja ”’ŽR’·—³_ŽÐ in Gifu prefecture.
The advanced age of old women's masks appears in their sunken cheeks and eye sockets, in their down-turned lips, in the wrinkles lining their foreheads and cheeks, and in white streaks painted into their hair. *Uba ‰W masks are used for more passive roles, generally the supporting character in the first half of a play, while all the other old women masks (*roujo ˜V—, *komachi ¬’¬, *higakionna •OŠ_—, and others) are used for main roles where the actor performs an instrumental dance, a painfully slow, yet hauntingly beautiful jo-no-mai ˜ƒm•‘. Accordingly, the uba masks are gentle, kind and benevolent, presenting a wrinkled and wizened grandmother, while the other masks expose the inner struggle and suffering of the loss of youth and the approach of death. The latter have strong sculptural affinity to masks of women suffering in hell, *ryouonna —쏗, *yaseonna ‘‰—. A twisted, okina style old woman mask with attached wig and leering smile exposing missing teeth above and below is housed at Chuusonji, along with the middle-aged mask mentioned above.
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