Bugaku Masks by Kyotaro Nishikawa of the Japanese Arts Library

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This first edition Hardbound book opened new ground: it is the first in either English or Japanese to be devoted solely to Bugaku masks. The enterprise is easily justified, for the best of these masks are masterpieces of sculpture, ranking in beauty and expressiveness with those of Africa and India. Bugaku masks are worn in an ancient Japanese dance-drama that evolved in the 9th century when dances imported in earlier times from other East Asian regions were combined and modified to suit Japanese tastes. This elegant dance-drama, called Bugaku, is still performed today, little changed from when it was a favorite pastime of the 10th-century Heian court. The masks themselves are thought to be the stylized and Japanized descendants of those masks -none of which survive-brought over with the original dances. Many of the outstanding Bugaku masks date from the 11th and 12th centuries and were made in the cultural centers, chiefly Kyoto. As Bugaku slowly lost its court patronage in the following two centuries, the musicians and dancers moved to the provinces, where the masks were modified and new forms emerged. From the 17th to 19th centuries Bugaku experienced a revival, and masks equal in technique and style to the best work of earlier periods resulted. Refined or dynamic, grotesque or eloquent-the great range and artistic excellence of Bugaku masks are exemplified by those shown on the back of the jacket. The 12th-century mask on the front jacket exhibits one feature unique among Japanese masks- eyes and chin that sway to the rhythm of the dancer's movements and bring the mask alive. This and other devices are described and illustrated in a chapter on the technical aspects of mask-making. Inscriptions on masks and the few known carvers are also discussed, as well as the relationship of Bugaku masks to other types of Japanese masks. A concise yet comprehensive treatment of all facets of the subject, this volume is amply illustrated with over 25 colors and 150 black-and-white plates.

Condition: Used out-of-print book in Very Good+ condition for its age. No marks or any indication of it being used. No dust jacket. Purchased from the American Japanese Museum fundraiser and rarely seen for sale.