A Wool and Ramie Muneate: Cloud Decorations
ca. mid to late nineteenth century
22 1/2" x 10 1/2", 57 cm x 26.5 cm
This tattered object is called a muneate, which is a kind of apron/chest protector which was worn by samurai/fireman during the Edo period. This piece dates to the mid nineteenth century or so, which is the end of the Edo period.
The muneate would have been worn under an overcoat called a kaji haori and some examples can be seen here.
This one is faced with off-white wool, a luxury good back in old Japan. It is backed with bleached, woven ramie and is lined with a heavy paper, which adds body and stiffness to this accessory. The silk tabs are frayed and delicate and the golden silk banding is also frayed away.
The wool itself is pocked with small areas of loss. The elaborate, paper-backed applique on the top of the muneate is a cloud form. A paper-backed family crest applique dominates the center of the piece. Both the cloud form and family crest are trimmed with pale blue cording. Two elaborate golden knots decorate the top of the piece.
A wonderfully graphic old garment, and one that, if it could speak, would inform us of life in old Japan.