A Long Noren or Shop Sign: Salt Merchant
late nineteenth, early twentieth century
16" x 120", 40.5 cm x 305 cm
This very long, indigo dyed cotton cloth is a noren, which is a kind of curtain.
In the case of this one being offered, this noren would have been hung under the eaves of the roof on the facade of a building as it was used as a shop sign. After much looking, the Chinese characters or kanji show that this noren hung outside a salt seller's shop, although the location of this shop, now presumably long-gone, is unknown.
There are wonderful features to this noren, the most significant being the lovely sashiko stitched details on the curtain: sashiko stitching trims each of the noren's nine flaps and stitching is also used to reinforce the area between the flaps, shown in the detail photos which accompany this post.
The noren is well-used and shows significant damage to the object and to its surface: one of the tabbed hangers is missing (far left) and the cotton itself is rather "chewed up" showing holes, abrasion and chunks of loss--none so glaring that this piece loses any of its charm.
It is a wonderful thing, a fine textile that really represents old Japan.