A 19th Century Katazome Dyed Ramie Cloth: Bats, Pine Needles, Gourds
ca. mid to late nineteenth century
12 3/4" x 18", 32.5 cm x 45.5 cm
This beautiful, slightly damaged fragment of cloth is a really wonderful katazome dyed ramie textile which was hand woven and hand dyed in the 19th century. The ramie fibers, both warp and weft, are hand plied.
The stencil resist dyed image is just wonderful: first we see, of course, bats. The Japanese word for bats is obliquely akin to a word that conveys "fortune," so bats are pictured for their auspicious meaning. We also see pine needles: pine is a symbol which wishes a long life, and as pine needles fall in pairs, they also symbolize conjugal fidelity. Note the pine needles are configured as a hexagon: the hexagon is a stand-in for the image of a tortoiseshell, the tortoise, too, being a motif which speaks of long life. The free-floating gourds are hyotan, which were traditional sake flasks.
As can easily be seen by the accompanying photographs, this fragment is hand finished on one end, but it also contains several small holes, one of which is quite prominent.
Still, this is a beautifully produced, hand made textile that is rich in the spirit of old Japan.