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A Small, Handpainted, 19th Century Nobori Bata

Written on July 6, 2010

This is a small, hand painted nobori bata, or a kind of flag that was displayed on the occasion of Boys’ Day, which is celebrated on 5 May, and is now called Children’s Day.This nobori bata measures 37″ x 13″ or 94 cm x 33 cm and was probably hung indoors as part of a special display that was assembled to celebrate the day: the display consists of “manly” and noble things, such as miniature suits of armor, helmets, swords, bows and arrows and doll-sized likenesses of valiant and legendary military heroes.Most banners hung during this festival address high ideals that speak to masculine pursuits: military prowess, legendary sages and the like.  This particular banner shows a beautifully rendered character from Noh drama, a traditional Japanese theater form.  He’s wonderfully drawn and painted: the diagonal lines on which he stands appear to be some kind of shadow, and they are very suggestive of time and space.Noh costumes are known for their elaborate use of richly woven brocade silks and fabulous decoration–although sometimes they are sewn from wonderful hemp, and other, cloth.  Look carefully at this actor’s outfit and you will get a clue that there is something special going on.As should be fairly clear from these photos, this banner is made of hand spun, hand woven cotton: most likely it dates to the mid-nineteenth century.  Note the inclusion of the family crest at the top of the flag, in this case it is that of oak or kashiwa.



Comments closed

  1. Comment by paula:

    no words! ^^

    July 6, 2010 @ 11:56 pm

  2. Comment by paula:

    ok, i’ve recovered… now i have words. Too wonderful and precious. I love that it is not the traditional depiction of manly pursuits. Detail is incredible ~~ thanks for, as always, sharing and explaining.

    July 8, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

  3. Comment by Lambert:

    I love the overall composition and that blue and that red are just faded to perfection.

    July 10, 2010 @ 11:59 am

  4. Comment by yt:

    This dancer plays the Sambanso of Okina that is a one of the most famous and ancient Noh character. The green motif is must be young needles of pine tree.
    Images of Sambanso

    July 11, 2010 @ 12:34 am

  5. Comment by admin:

    YTmai, I knew I should have consulted with you as I was preparing this post. Many thanks for your excellent research and clarification.

    July 11, 2010 @ 10:12 am