An Early 19th Century Hand Dyed Tenugui: Traditional Hand Towel
early to mid nineteenth century
11" x 29", 28 cm x 73.5 cm
This is a wonderful opportunity to acquire an Edo period tenugui--a collectible cotton textile from old Japan which are known for their delicate hues and their charming designs.
A tenugui is a traditional cotton hand towel that is ubiquitous in Japan because of its many uses. It can be used to mop sweat from a brow in summer; it can be worn on the head, kerchief-like, while working; it can be twisted and worn as a sweat band like sushi chefs do: there are endless ways to use a tenugui.
Sometimes these oblong lengths of cotton are used by stores as a give away, sometimes as gifts at new year, other time for store promotions. Sometimes tenugui are brought back from trips as souvenirs if they are imprinted with a specialized image specific to certain region or town.
This one with its pale blue background--typical of Edo period tenugui--shows three rice bales, each bearing bold and graphic kanji or Chinese characters against a background of bamboo branches.
The cloth is slightly starched and on its two ends are stitched a narrow band of grey cotton which infers this tenugui was repurposed and was most likely used as part of a garment lining or obi shin, a cloth used to give form to the obi or kimono sash. It shows patina from wear.