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Meisen Summer Kimono with Dragonflies


Not on view

The dragonfly (tonbo) featured on this unlined summer robe is one of the oldest motifs in Japan, symbolic of patriotism, courage, and good fortune. Samurai warriors considered the dragonfly the victory insect because of its agility and perceived fearlessness. Thriving in watery rice fields, it was also believed to be a sign of a good harvest. Dragonflies appear in various art forms in Japan but became particularly prominent in the bold designs of early twentieth-century kimonos, reflecting the influence of the Western Art Nouveau movement. Their seasonal association made dragonflies appropriate for summer kimonos such as this one. The design was created by dyeing warp threads with three stencils in three colors before weaving. The wefts are tightly twisted to create texture. The contrast of the very dark blue ground with teal and undyed dragonflies gives the image depth, as does the overlapping of the insects’ tails and wings.

Meisen Summer Kimono with Dragonflies, Plain-weave silk warps with twisted dupioni silk wefts in unraveled ikat (hogushi-gasuri), Japan

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