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Kosode with Kamo Horse Racing

Unknown18th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto, Japan

The design on this kosode robe depicts the ritual horse races held on the fifth day of the fifth month at Kamigamo Shrine in the north of Kyoto. In this ritual, reputedly started by Emperor Horikawa (r.1079–1107) in 1093 (Kanji 7), the winner of two horses predicts the year’s harvest. The theme of horse races on Boy’s Day (Tango no sekku) suggests the kosode belonged to a youth.
The upper portion has a checker-board pattern done in stitch-and-bind shibori, while the lower portion depicts one horse overtaking another in yūzen dyeing with embroidery added here and there. Yūzen involved tracing the outlines of the pattern with rice paste resist and brushing inside the paste-delineated area with various colors, in a technique of free-hand painting appearing much like a painted picture. Developed at the end of the seventeenth century, it soon became the main method of decorating kimono due it its great freedom. Notable for the thin white lines known as “thread lines” (itome) left by the pasteresist and for the beauty of the gorgeous coloring,this piece, with its minute depiction in yūzen of the tense atmosphere between the two riders on racing horses, imparts a feeling of being present at the actual scene.
The design corresponds to one that appears in Tōryū moyō hinagata tsuru no koe (Crane Calls, Pattern Book with the Latest Designs), a kosode pattern book published in 1724 (Kyōho 9), indicating a probable general date of production.

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