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A Late Edo Period (1603 to 1868) Buddhist Pieced Silk Textile

Written on January 11, 2009

What a gorgeous textile this is, made of countless pieces of silk and silk brocade fabric, each piece backed with paper and hand stitched together, creating this amazing, complex and dazzling geometric mosaic of cloth.

No doubt this dates from the late Edo Period, an educated guess would place this sometime in the late eighteenth century.  This is a temple fabric, used in a Buddhist temple and made from pieces of cloth which were most likely donated to temple by patrons.

I am not sure the exact use of this cloth, however it could very well be for a priest to stand upon while performing rituals to the temple deity, or, too, it could be used  in a sanctimonious way, perhaps for a holy object or statue to be placed upon, however I believe it was used in the former manner.

Really pay attention to the kind of work that went in to making this.  This is not a large piece, it measures 37″ x 29″, 94 cm x 74 cm and each one of the complex squares which comprise the piece measures only 4″, 10 cm square.  Therefore, when you notice that most squares are formed of multiple, small pieces of paper-backed cloth, you have to imagine how small some of these individual scraps really are; this adds to the appreciation of  the skill and patience necessary to sew this magnificent textile artwork.

The color palette is beautifully muted, with some flecks of gold–it is never garish, though.  The wonderful, soft tones of color are due to age, but the color is also due to the botanical dyes used to dye these marvelous, richly woven silks.  Botanical dyes age gracefully and beautifully.


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