Summer Robe with Irises and Plank Bridges
Edo period (1615–1868)
Bast-fiber, paste-resist dyed; silk embroidery; couched metallic-wrapped thread
Overall: 70 x 47 in. (177.8 x 119.4 cm)
John C. Weber Collection
Not on view
Irises and plank bridges connote a locale in Mikawa Province known as Yatsuhashi (Eight Bridges) made famous by an episode in the tenth-century literary classic The Ise Stories (Ise monogatari). A courtier, far from home, arrives at a marsh with irises in resplendent bloom and composes a love poem that incorporates the syllables of the Japanese word for irises (kakitsubata) at the head of each line. In traditional depictions of the episode, courtiers are shown seated by a marsh of irises in bloom, but Ogata Kŏrin (1658–1716) in his iconic depiction distilled the scene to just a plank bridge and irises, as seen in the pair of folding screens in the neighboring case. The literary underpinning of the painting’s dramatic arrangement in rich blue and green would have been instantly recognizable to any literate viewer at the time. This garment, incorporating tour-de-force silk embroidery and the extravagant use of metallic-wrapped thread, was likely worn by a woman of the military class.