Embroidery, silk and applied gold leaf on silk ground
Overall: 164 x 138 cm (64 9/16 x 54 5/16 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1974.36
This magnificent robe was a costume specifically designed for performances of Noh theater in Japan. Originating during the 1300s from simple folk plays, Noh drama evolved into formal presentations of ritual, theater, dance, and music performed in the courts and shrines of the nobility. Stories were derived from a variety of sources—myths, legends, poetry, and prose—many dating back to the medieval period. Because great importance was placed on subtlety and elegance, plots tended to be minimal. Whether male or female all roles were played by men. Central to these performances were the masks and costumes worn by the actors. The brilliance and elegance of this robe are characteristic of costumes made solely for Noh theater. Its date in the first half of the 1700s is indicated by the proportions of the robe, the choice of embroidery stitches (satin, couching, and outline), and the absence of decoration at the hips, a fashion also reflected in kimonos at that time. The design of weeping cherry trees and irises in the snow was very likely inspired by a medieval Japanese poem. Robes decorated with embroidery against a gold ground were reserved for female roles. These robes were worn under the external garment and were only partially visible.
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