Mixed media, with black ink, coloured tissue and with occasional gilded elements
30 ½ x 29 ½ in. (77.5 x 75 cm.)
All framed using the same overall dimensions a set of seven which can be bought as a set or sold individually.
The patterns that adorn kimono are very significant, for it is through choice of colour and, most importantly, decorative motifs that the wearer's gender, age, status, wealth, and taste are articulated.
The images used on kimono often have complex levels of meaning, and many have specific auspicious significance which derives from religious or popular beliefs. The crane for example, is one of the most popular birds depicted on kimono. Believed to live for a thousand years and to inhabit the land of the immortals it is a symbol of longevity and good fortune.
The use of specific motifs can allude to the virtues or attributes of the wearer (or those they might aspire to), reflect particular emotions, or relate to the season or occasion. Such symbolism was used especially on kimono worn for celebratory events such as weddings and festivals, when it served to bestow good fortune on the wearer, wrapping them in divine benevolence and protection. This use of auspicious motifs in dress reveals the Japanese belief in the literal, as well as the figurative, power of images.
Colours too have strong metaphorical and cultural connotations. Dyes are seen to embody the spirit of the plants from which they are extracted. Any medicinal property is also believed to be transferred to the coloured cloth. Blue, for example, derives from indigo (ai), which is used to treat bites and stings, so wearing blue fabric serves as a repellent to snakes and insects. Colours were given a cosmological dimension with the introduction to Japan in the 6th century of the Chinese concept of the five elements. Fire, water, earth, wood and metal are associated with particular directions, seasons, virtues and colours. Thus black corresponds to water, north, winter and wisdom. Colours also have strong poetic significance. Purple, for example, is a metaphor for undying love, the imagery deriving from the fact that gromwell (murasaki), the plant used to create the dye, has very long roots. Perhaps the most popular colour for kimono is red, derived from safflower (benibana). Red connotes youthful glamour and allure, and is thus suitable for the garments of young women. It is also a symbol of passionate but, as beni-red easily fades, transient love.
Poems & stories
Elements of the natural world that appear on kimono usually have strong poetic associations, while more complex landscape scenes often refer to particular stories drawn either from classical literature or popular myths.While carrying an auspicious meaning, they also serve to demonstrate the literary discernment and cultural sensitivities of the wearer.Although such stories invariably involved people, it is relatively unusual to find human figures depicted on kimono. Instead there are objects which suggest their presence or recent departure, a pair of dropped fans, for example, alluding to lovers disturbed.
From the early 20th century increasingly graphic imagery was used on kimono. On garments for young boys in particular, symbols of Japan's modern and progressive present - cars, trains, aeroplanes and skyscrapers - became as popular as stories of the past. In the 1930s such motifs became increasingly nationalistic and militaristic.