Jinbaori (Coat worn over armor) Winged dragon and wave design on scarlet wool ground

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Jinbaori (Coat worn over armor) Winged dragon and wave design on scarlet wool ground

Textiles / Edo

Edo period, 19th century

丈103.0 裄130.0

1領

This sleeveless vest, called a jinbaori, was made to be worn over armor. This one was not worn in actual battle but used as a costume in kabuki, one of Japan’s traditional performing arts. Its vivid red cloth is embroidered with a striking design of a winged dragon with clouds and waves. It was made to stand out on stage and is brilliantly showy even at a distance. Its rousing mood is reminiscent of Chinese tastes. It is common for costumes for male roles to sport Chinese-style designs, while those for female roles, in contrast, tend to feature Japanese-style patterns. This is true not only in kabuki, but also in noh, another of Japan’s traditional performing arts.

The texture of this fabric, which resembles felt, is called rasha. It is a type of wool cloth with a raised, coarse surface. Japan did not yet produce wool cloth at that time, so this would have been a luxury item imported from Europe.

In contrast to noh costumes decorated with repetitive patterns, kabuki costumes often feature bold embroidered motifs in a more freely designed style.

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