Kosode (Garment with small wrist openings) Stream, Japanese larch, and wisteria design on white figured satin ground

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Kosode (Garment with small wrist openings) Stream, Japanese larch, and wisteria design on white figured satin ground

Textiles / Edo

Edo period, 17th-18th century

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Kosode are garments with small wrist openings. A blue, zig-zag pattern flows diagonally across a shiny, white silk ground, while flower-like designs are scattered across the garment’s surface. What do you think the large flower-like motifs are? It seems they are actually a stylized depiction of a Japanese larch. The sections radiating outwards are the needle-like leaves, while the three circles in the center depict pistils. The blue section is not just a zig-zag pattern either; this represents flowing water. It is interesting how the appearance of natural motifs change when incorporated into designs like these.

Motifs of wisteria flowers on pine trees have long been used in literature to symbolize early summer in Japan. This use of literary themes and the flamboyant arrangement of designs across the whole garment are representative features of kosode from the Genroku era, which lasted from 1688 to 1704.

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