Masterpieces of KNM

Processional Masks of the Twelve Devas

Bonten Mask

This set of processional masks, formerly owned by Toji temple, is one of the oldest in Japan. The present seven, three made of paulownia wood and four of cypress, are considered to be remainders of nineteen masks rescued from the fire of 1000 A.D. that burnt down the treasure hall in Kyo'ogokokuji (the former name for Toji temple).

According to the inscriptions on the reverse side, the masks were repaired both in 1086 and in 1334 for use in a dedication ceremony for the new pagoda. The present coloring probably dates from 1334. The oval face of Bonten, with its gently swelling eyelids and cheeks, small, downcast eyes and diminutive mouth, has a dreamlike expression. Its style is quite typical of the end of the 10th Century, when the sculptor Kojo, father of Jocho (the master sculptor of the following century), was active.

Colored paulownia and cypress wood
Height: 32.1 cm
Width: 18.4 cm
Late-Heian Period (End of 10th Century)
Important Cultural Property
CK 18
Kyoto National Museum

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