A Stenciled Paper Envelope: Blue Grapes and Squirrels
ca. mid twentieth century
14 1/4" x 9 1/2", 36 cm x 23.5 cm
This is an unusual paper object that has been stenciled with an equally unusual motif.
What makes the object unusual is that it is a piece of folded, stenciled paper that has been machine sewn shut, leaving a gap of 6" or 15 cm unsewn.
The stenciled motif is also unusual: it is that of squirrels and grapes. Most likely this combination of motives is borrowed from the Chinese, and it is unusual in that it does appear from time to time in the worlds of textile design and applied arts in Japan, but its appearance is scant.
In the Chinese lexicon, squirrels (or "pine mice") are a stand-in for pine and they symbolize longevity. Grapes and grapevines are a homophone for peach, a Taoist longevity figure. Another reading of the squirrels and grapes symbolism is that grapes symbolize the fruits of one's sowing and are a symbol of the harvest. Squirrels, of course, are "harvesting" the grapes.
This paper "envelope" shows surface abrasion, one stain and some discoloration from dirt on one of its short edges, on both sides.