A scowling figure standing atop a pedestal. He has four arms, two of which are clasped together, and the other two of which are holding an orb and a stick. On the pedestal are two small human figures and two birds. Above the figure are two circles. On the right and left side of the image are lines of writing.
This image is a rubbing of the deity Shômen Kongô. He is depicted with four arms, two of which hold a sword and a wheel. He is often accompanied by two servant boys, as he is here, and roosters, who were considered protectors against demons. Behind him are the sun and the moon. Some Buddhist texts say Shômen Kongô was originally a demon who caused illness and tortured humans, but that he dedicated himself to protecting them against disease after a defeat. The writing on either side of the image indicates the date. The right side of the image reads “the 8th year of the Genroku era,” or 1695.
This brocade makes use of gold thread, creating a composite that shimmers. the warm, muted tones of the gold are matched in color selections of light blue, dark blue, yellow, mauve, silvery white, and muted green threads. Two textile fragments have been sewn into a gold background. On the left is a rectangular segment of a blue and green dragon among clouds. The right segment is a floral decoration of a variety of plants and colors, interspersed with horizontal lines.
The textile to the left, is possibly part of an obi (sash for kimono) and decorated with kinran, one of many techniques for incorporating precious metals like gold into fabric.
The fabric to the right was once part of a garment worn by an actor playing a female role in traditional Noh drama. With its cool color scheme and autumnal plants (pine, bush clover, and pinks), it evokes a melancholy mood. The weaving technique seen here is known as karaori, meaning “Chinese weave,” as it was originally developed in China.
The colorful strips of brocade at the top and bottom of this panel feature a woven design of ivy and peonies entwined around cartwheels, bamboo, and stylized diamonds. A wide rectangular fragment of an obi (sash for kimono) lie at the center of the textile. It is an almost abstract design of boats tossed in a frothy sea. The warm, muted tones of the gold are matched in color selections of mauve, and muted purple, blue, and green threads.
Both the bold, clear design and the narrow width of the cloth suggest that these may have been part of the sash for a Noh drama costume.
The wide fragment of an obi (sash for kimono) is a superb example of float-stitch embroidery, in which long sections of untwisted floss are attached to the fabric only at the edge of the embroidered motif; here the float stitches are used for the boat sails. The technique is one that came to Japan from China in the sixteenth century.
Fragments of brocade textiles are stitched symmetrically into gold fabric. Gold, blue, and brownish/copper hues create the patterns on the textile fragments.
Textiles have been collected, catalogued, and discussed in Japan since at least the tenth century. For the imperial court and Buddhist temples, both deeply conservative organizations, textiles were tangible records of precedent: it was important to keep track of what patterns and which colors were appropriate for hundreds of annual ceremonial occasions. Scraps of fabric from garments, banners, monastic robes, and sutra covers were carefully labeled and preserved in thick notebooks.