What the Heck? Solved!


Update: Solved!  See below. Our original post from June, 2014:

Sometimes, scratching your head does make sense. Especially when encountering a photograph such as this. I wish I could elaborate beyond my first instinct, which is that the subject resembles some kind of shrunken head with an extremely bad hair day.


blog1-asian-mask-"Asian Mask?": cropped to image margins: (19.6 x 14.4 cm | 27.0 x 19.6 cm) Japanese tissue gravure: 1900-1920: from: PhotoSeed Archive


However, on close inspection, it might actually appear to be some kind of Asian mask, dressed in what appear to be elaborate silk garments.  But these are only guesses. This very fine tissue gravure printed on a thin sheet of Japan laid paper was purchased for this archive from a dealer based in Warwickshire, England in the Fall of 2012.  It was purchased at the same time by a lovely pictorialist study that I’ve titled Agnes, which can be seen here.


Does anyone have clues as to the actual subject matter and or author responsible for this mysterious photograph?


Solved!  January, 2020. This portrait shows a Japanese Noh dancer. The variant below was published in Photograms of the Year 1918: The Annual Review of the World’s Pictorial Photographic Work. Please see this link for additional details on the photographer.


single-2-pollard-crowther-noh-mask-djf"The No Dancer”, Plate LIII: C. Pollard Crowther- 1859-1941: English. Crowther was living and working in Kobe, Japan when this full-page halftone was published in the photographic annual "Photograms of the Year 1918: The Annual Review of the World's Pictorial Photographic Work"- Edited by F.J. Mortimer, F.R.P.S: London: Iliffe & Sons, Limited. From: HathiTrust digital Library


This entry was posted on Monday, June 23rd, 2014 at 1:07pm and is filed under New Additions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

  1. David Spencer

    on October 29th, 2014 - 9:57am David Spencer said:

    Bill: thank you very much for your keen insight on the subject matter of
    this photograph. My hunch was Asian as evidenced by the subject "wearing" a kimono. I do believe you are right however but I have not had success
    finding Noh masks showing large amounts of facial hair as shown in this

    David Spencer-

  2. Bill

    on October 25th, 2014 - 1:15pm Bill said:

    I think you will find this is a Japanese Noh theatre character perhaps "shite"

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