Seven-column priest’s robe with court-dance theme
Unknown artist, Japanese, Japan
Seven-column priest’s robe with court-dance theme, 1736
Silk compound weave with supplementary silk and gold-leaf paper patterning wefts
210.8 cm (83 inches) (length)
Bequest of Lucy T. Aldrich 55.408
The main Buddhist vestment (kesa) is usually a rectangular patchwork made of cloth pieces sewn together in columnar configuration and worn draped over the left shoulder. The central column is identified with Buddha, and the four corner patches represent the guardians of the four quarters (north, south, east, and west). The earliest kesa preserved in Japan, dating from the eighth century, were purposely assembled from small, irregular pieces of cloth resembling discarded rags, but later examples were frequently made from luxury textiles. The pictorial decoration on this seven-column priest’s robe continues across its columns. Musical instruments are scattered against a golden background, along with a hat and mask with dangling jaw, objects used for centuries in Japanese court dance.