An homage to the Japanese Shikami demon masks sold in Paris shops specializing in Japanese artifacts (the originals were made of wood and used in the Noh theater), this remarkable stoneware object has the Shikami furrowed brow, fanglike teeth, snarling mouth, and horns. Instead of the typical red hue that signifies rage, the ashen color of this example suggests a ghost demon. Other frightening features include precisely carved skeletal cheekbones and eye sockets, a broadly flaring nose, and a gory black ‘nosebleed'.
About Atelier de Breteuil
Haunted demons and grotesque goggle-eyed fish were amongst the rare artistic products of Armand Rousseau, owner of the “Société des Grès de Breteuil” (Eure) in Normandy. The pottery firm, originally “Céramique de Breteuil”, owned by Alfred Pillard-Soulain, was acquired by Rousseau and exhibited at the Champ du Mars in Paris in 1894. Through various other exhibitions it obtained four gold medals. Towards the end of the nineteenth century with around 100 laborers on its books, it was also decisive in reviving the economy of the small town. Although Rousseau’s success was largely due to his factory’s output of industrial stoneware ceramics, he turned his hand to a limited output of highly competent art pottery, modeling works in the Japoniste style, so much loved during the belle époque, such as the expressive noh theatre masks that recall the demon Hannya. In 1914-1915, as fighting raged during World War I, Rousseau’s establishment was requisitioned for barracks by the French army. [Source: Jason Jacques]