Nuihaku Garment (Noh costume) with Clematic, Pampas Grass and Scattered Fans


Nuihaku Garment (Noh costume) with Clematic, Pampas Grass and Scattered Fans

Textiles / Azuchi/Momoyama / Edo

Azuchi-Momoyama–Edo period, 17th century


This is a garment called a nuihaku worn by actors playing female roles in noh theater. It is decorated with designs in embroidery and gold leaf. This nuihaku was made by retailoring two others that were made in a different period. Garments whose left and right sides feature different patterns, like this one, are called “one-side replacements.” The side with the orange ground was made in the latter half of the 16th century, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573–1603). The cloth is decorated with a background design of dewy grass in gold leaf and embroidered with a design of folding fans. Folding fans were seen as auspicious designs symbolizing growth and prosperity in Japan because they spread open. The fans are decorated with designs of flowers representing each of the four seasons, which are typical of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The fans are embroidered with depth by passing thread from one edge of the design to the other. This is a distinctive embroidery technique of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

This nuihaku itself is thought to have been retailored in the late-17th or 18th century, during the mid Edo period (1603–1868). The side decorated with an arabesque design of clematis flowers on a black ground was made during the early Edo period. The design of Chinese clematis, which were introduced to Japan in the same period, and the technique of covering the entire surface in embroidery, called “no ground,” reflect the fashions of the time. Combining it with a costume from the Azuchi-Momoyama period, which was undergoing a revival, expresses the care with which its makers inherited the traditions of noh costuming.

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