A Length of Wasarasa: Indian-Inspired Figured Cotton

$70.00 USD

early twentieth century
39 1/4" x 14", 99.5 cm x 35.5 cm

Throughout centuries of Japan's history the upper classes admired and collected Indian trade cloth which they referred to as sarasa. Some of it was commissioned directly from India, specifying certain patterns and colors while other pieces were purchased directly from India and were dyed in traditional Indian patterns.

The Japanese admired sarasa so much that they started making their own cloth that suggested the original.

In the early twentieth century cloth of Japanese manufacture that was evocative of Indian trade cloth--but more in keeping with Japanese taste--became popular. However it was designed in different patterns and in different colors than the Indian inspiration.

This piece is an example a vaguely Indian inspired cotton cloth of Japanese manufacture. It is referred to as wa (Japanese) sarasa (Indian cloth).

The background is a grey tone and on it we see a repeat pattern of loosely rendered and colored images, they are so loosely rendered and filled in with color that they are hard to discern. What seems to be depicted are masks, mallets, arms, money bags and perhaps tea ceremony implements and Buddhist symbols. 

True to the spirit of Indian trade cloth the images are filled in rather freely and there is a good amount of deep red color used: the madder dye in Indian textiles was appealing to the Japanese whose own arsenal of dyes made making a true red not very easy.

This is a charming and interesting length of cloth that reflects something large about Japanese textile history.