1940s japan

2

Summer Kimono.  Early-Showa period (1927-1940), Japan.  The Kimono Gallery. An hitoe (unlined) silk summer kimono featuring woven carp jumping in a turbulent waters. 50" from sleeve-end to sleeve-end x 56" height. The carp (koi) when used on a woman’s garment such as this example is emblematic of faithfulness in marriage and general good fortune. The arched shape of the carp on this kimono are indicative of “araiso” carp. The araiso carp leaps and dances in torrential rivers and tries to climb waterfalls, and so is also an auspicious symbol of perseverance and ultimate success in life. Some of the carp are turquoise with white heads, while others are completely white. This stunning example combines the traditional jumping carp and wave/current motifs with non-traditional and unusual additions – four narrow white vertical stripes combined with wider alternating white and blue stripes at an angle. The result is a timeless graphic design masterpiece.

2

Kimono.  Early Showa period (1927-1940), Japan.  The Kimono Gallery.  A soft rinzu (damask) silk kimono featuring large black peony motifs on a red background. Black is a rare color for peonies, and we are uncertain that the artist intended that these motifs were supposed to represent all peonies or just the black one. There is story originating in China that queen Wu of the Tang dynasty wrote a poem to the goddess of flowers asking that her garden flowers bloom early to remind her of spring. The next day all her garden flowers were in bloom, except for the peony that disobeyed the order, refusing to bloom out of season. The angry queen had this peony banished from the capital, however, as soon as it was transplanted to another city. As soon as this was accomplished, the peony did bloom, again angering the queen, who ordered that the flower be burnt to the ground. But the following year, the burnt peony produced black flowers. It was thereafter referred to as the Champion of Black Flowers. Another Chinese tale goes as follows: Qing Long Wo Mo Chi, or “Green Dragon Lying in an Ink Pool” is a traditional black tree peony that is a symbol of dedication. During a year of terrible drought, most plants died from a lack of water. A little dragon risked his own life to steal water from the Yao Tai (a place where the supreme being lives) for the plants. To protect the dragon from punishment and to repay him for his kindness to her plants, a tree peony goddess flew with him into an Ink Pond and he was saved. But the peony goddess changed its color to black. This kimono reflects the experimentation with tradition during the Taisho period and early Showa period; the artist in this example has taken the traditional auspicious peony motif, and placing large black ones on a red background, yielding a ‘modern’ bold graphic red & black artwork.

Furisode. Mid-Showa period (1940-1960), Japan.  The Kimono Gallery.  A large furisode featuring yuzen-dyed phoenix motifs with additional painted and metallic couching highlights. Five family crests. Secondary red lining, which along with the main outer garment are padded at the hems. On the lower left front of the kimono is an artist or studio ‘seal’ (see gallery detail image), white on red): such 'signature’ seals are rare on kimonos, and tend to be present on more upscale garments. In Japan, the mythical Phoenix was adopted as a symbol of the imperial household, particularly the empress. This mythical bird represents fire, the sun, justice, obedience, fidelity. The peony is the rose without thorns, and so embodies romance and love, and is regarded as an omen of good fortune and a happy marriage as well. The depiction of a phoenix with flowering peonies is a decorative motif that dates to at least the eighth century in China.