Robe ([Kosode]) with Chrysanthemums, Fishing Nets, and Calligraphy


Robe ([Kosode]) with Chrysanthemums, Fishing Nets, and Calligraphy

Textiles / Edo

Edo period, 18th century

Satin-weave silk


Kosode are the predecessors of modern-day Japanese kimono. The name kosode derives from the small wrist openings of the garments. Blue, bordered motifs scattered across the shiny, white satin ground of this kosode are meant to be fishing nets. This kind of pattern originally featured fishermen drying their nets on the shore. As time passed, though, it seems that only the design of the net itself survived, becoming more and more geometrical.
A closer look reveals several Chinese characters dotted across the garment. Those on the front include the characters for 'horse,' wind,' 'smoke,' 'bay,' 'light in weight,' and 'scent,' while those on the back include the characters for 'dew,' 'dawn,' 'shrine,' and 'smell.' Perhaps these were part of a Chinese poem. How many of these characters can you find?
Tie-dying is used for the net section, while the Chinese characters and parts of the chrysanthemums use embroidery and a technique that involves rubbing stencil-dyed patterns onto cloth.
The literary elements and the flamboyant arrangement of the designs across the whole garment are both characteristic features of kosode from the Genroku era, a period from 1688 to 1704 when elegant, courtly tastes were favored.

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