Piece from a Noh Costume (Nuihaku) with Egret (Sagi) and Willow Tree
Edo period (1615–1868)
second half of the 18th–first half of the 19th century
Embroidered silk satin
H. 39 in. (99 cm); W. 13 in. (33 cm)
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
Not on view
A white bird stands on the sinuous trunk of a willow tree above the waters that surge below. Egrets and herons are grouped together under the Japanese term sagi. In literature, they figure in an episode in the medieval Tale of the Heike that inspired a noh play called Sagi. In this fable, set during an imperial outing in a garden, the emperor tells one of his ministers to call a nearby sagi. At first it flies off, but upon hearing the minister summon it by imperial command, the bird returns, bowing before the emperor, who confers upon both bird and minister the honor of the fifth rank. The sagi’s celebratory dance is the focal point of the play.
The association of the birds with this auspicious play may account for the comparatively frequent occurrence of noh costumes patterned with sagi. This textile probably came from such a costume.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Notable Acquisition of Japanese Textiles of the Edo Period (1615-1868)," June 25, 2003–September 21, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Storytelling in Japanese Art," November 19, 2011–May 6, 2012.