A Fragment of Safflower Dyed Hemp or Ramie: Faded and Mottled
early twentieth century
21 1/2" x 12", 54.5 cm x 30.5 cm
This length of hemp or ramie cloth was taken from what appears to be the lining of a kimono and it was dyed in benibana or safflower dye.
Safflower dye can take on many colors, from pale yellow to raging fuchsia depending on the way the dyestuff is processed and what mordant is used to set the dye.
In this case of this fragment, we see a rich, bright pink color that has become mottled, faded and dirty over time: safflower dye is famously light fugitive and easily and normally is ravaged by time and wear as this piece is.
You can see that in addition to the unevenness of the benibana dye there is also evidence of ground-in dirt: in an attempt to preserve the delicate and beautiful pink dye, and knowing safflower is a touchy dyestuff, we did not attempt to wash out the ingrained dirt for fear it would damage beautiful pink quality of the dye.
Even so, and even though this piece has lost much of its original color to time and wear, it is still a simply gorgeous fragment, and important study piece for those interested in natural dyeing.