Noh Costume (Surihaku) with Chinese Bellflowers

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: 18th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Gold and silver leaf on silk satin

Dimensions: Overall: 68 1/4 x 57 1/4 in. (173.4 x 145.4 cm)

Classification: Costumes

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1932

Accession Number: 32.30.5


Blooming in the middle of the eighth lunar month, the Chinese bellflower (kikyō), with its star-shaped blossoms, is celebrated as one of the seven autumn grasses. The execution of the simple floral motif on this robe is reminiscent of background designs painted in gold and silver on poem cards and handscrolls by artists of the Rinpa school, beginning with Tawaraya Sōtatsu (d. ca. 1640). Surihaku robes are decorated with patterns of gold or silver leaf affixed with paste to a plain-colored background. In Noh performances, they are worn as inner garments, often covered and seen only at the collar or shining almost imperceptibly through a gauzy cloak, but sometimes outer garments are draped or wrapped in such a way as to expose the surihaku's chest area or right sleeve or even the entire upper portion of the robe.