Unknown artist, Japanese; Edo, Japan
Cotton; resist dyed
Length: 33.7 cm (13 1/4 inches)
Gift of William Ely 37.288
(February 16 –July 8, 2007)
Grasses are often associated with auntumn; however, with the addition of butterflies, this design may take on a more significant meaning. For example, the different design effects of the grasses may imply some are underwater whiel others are not, suggesting two different states of consciousness. Butterflies are viewed as possessing the souls of the living and the dead, in addition to symbolizing joy and longevity.(December 11, 2009 – May 9, 2010)
Drawing from Indonesian traditions of wax-resist printing, these two textiles, in which the butterfly tumbles in and out of lush vegetation and blossoms, share similar imagery, patterning, and technique, but different histories. Many cultures use the art of wax resist to create pattern on textiles. The Japanese textile is an example of katazome, a stencil-resist technique whereby rice-flour paste, mochiko, is handapplied to all areas of the textile meant to remain white before it is dyed. (A group of stencils utilizing this traditional printing process may be viewed in the cases on the far end of this gallery.) The Dutch textile represents a mechanized version of the resist-printing technique using wax rather than rice paste as the blocking agent. This manner of printing, widely known by its Indonesian name, batik, came to the attention of Dutch East India Company merchants in the early 17th century and has been refined and mechanized over the last four hundred years. Today, Vlisco, the firm that produced the contemporary Dutch textile, manufactures such wax-resist textiles not for the Dutch or Indonesian market, but for export to West Africa. The Japanese example, on the other hand, reflects the influence of Chinese design and technical tradition. According to provenance documents, it may have traveled to America on the first cargo out of Japan after the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa, under Admiral Perry. Such textiles flooded the Western marketplace in the mid-19th century, spurring a new movement in design known as Japonisme.