Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Piece from a Robe (Kosode) with Cherry Blossoms and Monkeys with Palanquin

Edo period (1615–1868)
18th century
Resist-dyed and painted silk crepe with details embroidered in silk and metallic thread
H. 31 7/8 in. (81 cm); W. 11 7/16 in. (29 cm)
Textiles-Dyed and Embroidered
Credit Line:
Purchase, Roy R. and Marie S. Neuberger Foundation Inc. and several members of The Chairman's Council Gifts, 2000 Benefit Fund, and funds from various donors, 2001
Accession Number:
Not on view
When the designs of Japanese robes and theatrical costumes evoke scenes from stories, they do so without depicting the actual characters. Inanimate characteristics that provide the setting of a famous episode—landmarks, seasonal flowers, accoutrements associated with characters and events—serve as a shorthand for the entire episode.

This extremely rare piece, a fragment of a garment, is a remarkable exception. Overtly represented here next to a palanquin and under a blossoming cherry tree are two monkeys. Complete with clothing, postures, and facial expressions that suggest relative rank and even personality, the animals are clearly characters in a story. Unfortunately, because the garment is not complete, the story cannot be unambiguously identified; however, this textile probably shows a detail from the story Fujibukuro (The Wisteria Bag), in which monkeys interact with humans. Narrative elements of the story presented in the textile include cherry blossoms, the palanquin, and monkey attendants.
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