A Tsutsugaki Yuage: Auspicious Baby Towel from Izumo

$265.00 USD

early to mid twentieth century
48" x 27", 122 cm x 68.5 cm

This beautifully dyed cloth is laden with symbols and meaning: it is a yuage, a tsutsugaki dyed cotton cloth from the Izumo area of Japan which has a long history of rich and beautiful indigo dyeing traditions.

A yuage is a towel used for babies.  More than likely this was presented to a new couple upon their marriage as part of the bride's trousseau.

Yuage are typical of the city and environs of Izumo and are easily distinguished by the distinctive red corner, often placed on the upper left.

Traditionally the red is dyed either in benibana or safflower or in akane or madder although an adulterated type of either might be used here. The reason for this area of red dye is for drying the baby's face: it was believed that safflower or madder dye would prevent smallpox. 

The images of plum, pine, tortoise and bamboo are typical hand resisted decorations to a yuage as they are symbols of protection to the baby: the plum meaning courage, the pine meaning long life. Likewise the crane and tortoise are wishes for a long life. Where the crane is concerned it is said that the closed beak of the crane is a sly wish for a son whereas if the beak is open it suggested a female baby. 

As can be seen, the indigo and red dyes are still strong. Please note the cotton is extra wide for a Japanese textile which indicates it is commercially loomed, not hand woven. As well there are some faint stains in the area of the tortoise (shown) and some minor, insignificant scuffing to the surface also shown near the foot of the crane.

Yuage are a highly desirable collectible textile from one of Japan's leading indigo dyeing centers and this one is a nice example with good size and a very well-rendered image, boldly placed and drawn with assurance and great skill.