An Unusual Sashiko Furoshiki: Western Style Umbrella
ca. early twentieth century
51" x 51", 129.5 cm x 129.5 cm
This is a really interesting, indigo dyed cotton sashiko furoshiki, or a tradtional wrapping cloth that has been hand stitched using white threads. Please know that unlike what the accompanying photos depict, the sashiko stitching is bright white, not as it appears in photos.
In all ways it appears to be a traditional Japanese sashiko stitched furoshiki: it is made of hand loomed cotton, it is indigo dyed, each of its corners is beautifully stitched in white cotton: but here is where the interesting part comes in.
On the lower, right hand corner, we see a stitched image of a Western style umbrella: the umbrella is shaped with a noticeably convex top and with a curved handle, very familiar to us in the West. This type of umbrella is foreign to Japan whose umbrellas were made of oiled or treated paper with a distinctive shape that is known to all of us.
Western style accessories and fashion were introduced into Japan during the Meiji era (1868-1912) and this furoshiki bears witness to the cultural exchange that flowed back and forth between Japan and the west during this time period.
As opposed to the familiar and sure stitching of the traditional Japanese motifs on this piece--the two opposing corners which show stylized chrysanthemums and the top, left corner which shows the traditional sayagata motif into which are embedded two Chinese character of kanji, the umbrella is not stitched with the same practiced hand as the traditional motifs: this newfangled image was not part of the standard sashiko stitching lexicon and was therefore a bit shaky in its rendering and execution. It is charming.
The piece is well worn as can be seen by some surface patina, a few small holes, and the repairs and patches to the reverse of the piece. Still, the furoshiki is in good shape, the cotton is sturdy, the indigo deeply colored, and overall this is a wonderful and unusual Japanese folk textile.