Beshimi mask

Historical period(s)
Edo period, 18th century
Japanese Cypress wood (Hinoki)
H x W x D: 28.1 x 21.6 x 11.6 cm (11 1/16 x 8 1/2 x 4 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Collected by Seymour J. Janow and Gifted in his memory by his Family
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


demon, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, WWII-era provenance

To 2003
Seymour J. Janow, Washington, DC, acquired in Japan, to 2003 [1]

From 2003
Freer Gallery of Art, given by the family of Seymour J. Janow in 2003


[1] According to Curatorial Note 1, Ann Yonemura, September 30, 2003, in the object record.

Previous Owner(s)

Mrs. Selma Janow


The use of masks in dance, court ritual, processions, and religious ceremonies expanded and flourished under the patronage of the Japanese imperial court during the seventh and eighth centuries, when a wide variety of performance, dance, and musical forms reached Japan from Korea, China, Southeast and West Asia. The elaborate carved and polychromed wood masks for these performances were probably produced by the sculptors of Buddhist icons, but in later periods, mask carving became a specialized skill that was often fostered within families.

This mask is of the type known as beshimi, for its tightly closed mouth. Beshimi is a demon who usually appears in dance-dramas regarding a fierce but ultimately benevolent being. The simple carving of this piece identifies it with a rural context, probably for use in conjunction with local shrine or agricultural festivals.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum