Kabuki Costume: Outer Robe (Uchikake) with Design of Lioness and Cubs
Second half of the 19th century
Silk, cotton, and metallic thread, glass, embroidered satin
Overall: 68 x 46 1/2 in. (172.7 x 118.1 cm)
Gift of Elizabeth Gordon, 1967
Not on view
The costumes of the Kabuki theater are known for their dramatic effect. The back of this uchikake, or outer robe, confronts the audience with the shocking spectacle of a lioness with bulging glass eyes pushing a cub off a high ledge. The lioness uses this brutal means to test the endurance of her cubs and will only take care of those who manage to climb back up to the promontory where she stands. On the front of the robe another cub is energetically beginning the ascent. The story, of uncertain source, is associated with a holy mountain of Buddhism, Tientai (Tendai, in Japanese), in China.