An Unused Noren Panel: Resisted Bengara Dye
mid twentieth century
74" x 14", 188 cm x 35.5 cm
This narrow length of canvas-weight cotton is stenciled in a dye stuff called bengara in Japan: it is an iron oxide-based pigment dye that coats cloth more than penetrating the fibers as a dye does. Sometimes buildings in Japan are painted with bengara, such as the famous tea house in Gion, Kyoto called Ichiriki.
Therefore this length of cotton is stiff--almost papery in feel--because of the heavy application of this pigment dye.
This panel was destined to be the center portion of a noren, a kind of door covering or, at times, a shop sign. It shows the central sliver of a common Japanese kanji (Chinese character). The two flanking panels would have completed this kanji to create a comprehensive design.
A wonderful, unused length of heavy cotton from Japan, and one that is still very durable.