Buddhist Vestment (Kesa)

Buddhist Vestment (Kesa)

early 1900s

Silk with supplementary weft, brocaded; metal thread

Overall: 119.4 x 205.7 cm (47 x 81 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade 1916.1340

Description

Kasaya (kesa in Japanese) are Buddhist monks’ and nuns’ robes that originated in India. A monk would cover his left shoulder with his kesa, leaving the right shoulder revealed. The robe was originally named after a brown or saffron dye; later some decorative elements were added to its formal version. In Japan during the Edo and Meiji periods, kesas were also made with gold brocade (kinran), which was used for Noh theater robes as well. The primary motif on this seven-paneled kesa is a long-tailed bird with a flower in its mouth (hanakuidori). This motif was imported from Persia through Tang China during the Nara period and has since had a long tradition of use in the decorative arts, such as lacquer ware, mirrors, and textiles.

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