Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Masked Warriors. Battle State of the Samurai

The exhibition “Masked Warriors. Battle State of the Samurai” will be on view at the Japan Museum SieboldHuis in Leiden, the Netherlands, until May 27. The show examines Nō masks as a key to reveal the ties between Nō and the samurai culture.

Upon entering the exhibition room, a resplendent karaori brocade Nō costume and male and female Nō masks come into view. On the right wall are two gorgeous women’s kimonos and a mask of a smiling young female. Across the way is a kimono of indigo material and gold thread with a lightning and crane design, a Nō mask with a powerful crescent moon design that extolls a god of war, and a mask of an old man characterized by deep wrinkles with transplanted hair and a mustache. Beyond the wall of the Nō costumes is a majestic display of two sets of armor. Fabric from kimono are used in the thigh guards of the armor, while the mask portions embedded into the helmets exude the strength of the crescent moon design of a samurai helmet. One can almost hear a brazen, bold call from the open mouths.

Fig.2 Helm en masker, Ressei-men (suji kabuto),
Nō and the Samurai Culture
In the 14th century Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, began patronizing the Nō actors Kan’ami and Zeami, and a strong bond between Nō and the samurai culture developed. The ties were further strengthened with the succession of powerful leaders all of whom favored Nō; Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Ieyasu Tokugawa,. Facial armor (ventails and cheek guards) were created in such an environment. The facial armor protected the face, especially the cheeks and chin, but also had the frightening expressions of the tormented female Nō mask.

The Overwhelming Popularity of Resseimen Masks among the Samurai
In the latter half of the 16th century, the resseimen, masks with fierce expressions, became popular among the samurai. They were characterized by finely carved furrows and often had transplanted beards and brows (fig. 2). They were influenced by the akujo masks of Nō plays. Akujo were the powerful and fearsome masks of old men that expressed overwhelming offensive power and supernatural strength, and were used to represent old gods and vengeful spirits. The resseimen with intense expressions such as those of the Nio guardian gods threatened their enemies with such expressions and also had the function of rousing the fighting spirit of their wear.

Masked Warriors. Battle Stage of the Samurai: Until May 27 2018

Japanmuseum SieboldHuis
Rapenburg 19
2311 GE Leiden
The Netherlands

Opening times:
Tuesday-Sunday 10:00-17:00
Closed on Mondays and public holidays


Fig.1 Amedeo Modigliani, Nude, 1917, Private Collection
After a decadent life seeped in drugs and alcohol, the painter Modigliani died at the young age of 35. The Tate Modern is holding a retrospective that includes 100 of his works until April 2, 2018.

A Sculptor’s Approach
The most famous work by Modigliani is his nudes (fig. 1). In a simplified form, the women exude a sad and sultry beauty. Modigliani cultivated this style when he worked in sculpture before he gave up that art form due to poor health arising from poverty. From 1909 to 1916, Modigliani intermittently created pieces influenced by Greek sculptures from the Archaic Period and African masks. When his focus returned to painting, he incorporated lines that looked like they had been carved with a chisel.

Fig.2 Amedeo Modigliani, The Little Peasant,
c.1918 ©Tate
The Avant-garde Painter Modigliani
Modigliani’s 1916 to 1917 nude women series can be viewed as his ambitious endeavor of this period. He joined exhibitions alongside artists such as Pablo Picasso, Moise Kisling and Giorgio de Chirico, at the same time garnering attention as one of the avant-garde painters of the era. He held the only solo exhibition during his lifetime “Paintings and Drawings of Modigliani” at the Galerie Berthe Weill. But on the opening day, police demanded the removal of a nude displayed in the window on grounds that it was obscene. There was virtually no response from critics.

Amid the Gentle Light of the Southern France
In 1918, fleeing World War I battles and the Spanish flu, Modigliani followed the art dealer Zborowski to Nice. The farmers he met in Southern France depicted in The Little Peasant (fig. 2) reveal a sense of simplicity and peace unseen before in his works. The harmony of beautiful lines and translucent bright colors brought a unique spirituality to his paintings. The longing for tranquility and tradition was a stance shared widely by Picasso and other avant-garde artists, but for Modigliani, it was due to the Sienese School and 13th and 14th century Italian art that had captured his heart as a youth.

MODIGLIANI : Until 2 April 2018

Tate Modern
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening times:
Sunday to Thursday 10.00–18.00
Friday to Saturday 10.00–22.00
Open daily