A Length of Double-Sided Edo Komon Katazome: Hemp

$185.00 USD

mid to late nineteenth century
51" x 12 3/4", 129.5 cm x 32.5 cm

This is a good-sized length of attractive, stencil dyed hemp cloth from the mid to late nineteenth century. It is dyed in indigo.

The overall pattern is a very small figured design called Edo komon.

In pre-Meiji era Japan (before 1868) there were sumptuary laws which governed what could be consumed, by whom and how. For example, only the samurai class could wear large-figured, boldly colored silk clothing. Most of the population was ordered to wear clothing made of cotton or of a bast fiber and the clothing needed to be patterned in a subtle way: it could not be flashy or call attention to the wearer.

People of means in Japan at that time still wanted to be stylish and wear fine clothing, so Edo komon, a small-figured, all-over pattern like the type seen here became a popular way to wear beautiful, expensive clothing while still staying within the parameters of the law. 

Because Edo komon patterns are so small the dyeing is difficult: dyeing it takes a great deal of skill and therefore its cost was high.

This length of hemp cloth shows Edo komon dyeing in its repeat pattern of small diamond-like forms. 

In many Edo komon patterns you cannot see the repeat as is the case with this one. This is more remarkable in knowing that the pattern is double-sided meaning that the cloth would have been stencil resisted on both its sides, however there are some small flaws, probably from wear.

A handsome, elegant and sophisticated length of Edo komon cloth and one that shows an ingeniously designed and brilliantly executed pattern.