The Seductive Stitch
This exhibition highlights the embroidery of China and Japan. In Japan, embroidery was often compared to painting. The embroidery designer, like the painter, begins with a blank canvas and creates an image without the limitations of other textile techniques such as resist dyeing and patterning on the loom. Some Japanese even preferred embroidery to painting because of the lustre of the glossy silk threads and the sparlkling gold metallic yarns.
The techniques used in Japanese embroidery originated in China and were probably brought to Japan during the sixth century along with the importation of much of Chinese culture. The techniques used most frequently by the Chinese are seen in the three dragon robes, which were reserved for wear by the Imperial court. These techniques include satin stitch, couching, and needlepoint. While these stitches varied little in China, the Japanese continued to develop new versions and now have a vocabulary of over 49 stitches and additional variations.
While Chinese embroidery retained the same level of excellence throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Japanese embroidery reached its peak towards the end of the Edo period (late eighteenth through the first half of the nineteenth century) and is seen at its best in the embroidery of fukusa, or gift covers. The fukusa with the embroidered eagle illustrates how Japanese stitches evolved. The variation of satin stitch used in the body of the eagle replicates the feathers of his breast.