An Extravagantly Stenciled Katazome Length: Complex Tortoiseshell Motif
ca. late nineteenth century
56" x 12 3/4", 142 cm x 32.5 cm
This is a spectacularly good length of indigo dyed, stencil resisted cotton.
First, the pattern: it is an elaborately rendered and beautifully realized repeat showing the kikko or tortoiseshell pattern. The pattern is drawn using only small dots, which means that the katazome stencil, or katagami, that was used to resist this image was made entirely of small dots that have been expertly punched through paper.
Inside each of the hexagons which comprises the tortoiseshell pattern is a grouping of stylized chrysanthemums, an oft-used motif for this kind of cloth which was very often used as bedding.
What pushes the envelope of amazing on this cloth is that it is fully reversible, as can be seen in one of the accompanying photographs. Each side is perfectly clear: often on katazome cloth, one side will be clearly stenciled and the other side, the proper reverse, will be cloudy and smudged as it was not meant to be seen.
Since each of the two sides of this cloth are identical in quality of resist dyeing, we know that each side was resisted by the dyer, so please think a moment on how is it possible for the dyer to perfectly register the stencil on each side of the cloth so as to produce a perfectly clear pattern on each side.
The very handsome cloth is in good condition, shows some overall fading from use, but in general it is in fine shape.