The Hannya mask is used in many noh and kyōgen Japanese plays, as well as in Shinto ritual kagura dances. The Hannya mask portrays the souls of women who have become demons due to obsession or jealousy (similar to the Buddhist concept of a Hungry ghost). Plays in which a person may wear the hannya mask include Aoi no Ue and Dōjōji; its use in these two plays, two of the most famous of the Noh repertoire, and its distinctive and frightening appearance make it one of the most recognizable Noh masks.
The Hannya mask is said to be demonic and dangerous but also sorrowful and tormented, displaying the complexity of human emotions. When the actor looks straight ahead, the mask appears frightening and angry; when tilted slightly down, the face of the demon appears to be sorrowful, as though crying. The oldest hannya mask is dated 1558.
Hannya masks appear in various skin tones: a white mask indicates a woman with a refined character (such as the aristocratic lady Rokujō in Aoi no Ue), a red mask depicts a less refined character (like the spirit of peasant girl seen in Dōjōji), and the darkest red depicts true demons (revealed after appearing as women, as in Momijigari and Kurozuka.) (Source Wikipedia)
This particular mask was purchased from Japan and has been part of our collection here for some time. It appears to be quite old and of very good quality. Construction looks to be paper mache coated in traditional lacquer with maker stamp. It measures from head to chin 22cm, ear to ear 15.5cm and around 7mm thick.