Buddhist Monk Cape (Kesa)

This Buddhist monk cape, or kesa, was made in Japan likely at the beginning of the 19th century, during the Edo Period (1615–1868). Kesa are rectangular outer garments constructed from small pieces of fabric that Buddhist monks and priests often wore. Their patchwork construction refers to the humble patched garment the Buddha wore, though kesa made during the Edo Period and Meiji Period (1868–1912) tend to be made out of much more luxurious materials. This kesa is itself made out of silk brocade, with added floral inserts. Inserts of different material were often added to kesa to reinforce the textiles at points of stress. These inserts appear to have all been cut from the same–or very similarly decorated–cloth.

Kesa from the Edo and Meiji Periods tend to be made out of many pieces of the same material, but are arranged so their reconstruction into the final garment create additional patterns. These final garments were usually worn draped over the left shoulder and tucked under the right armpit. The Art Institute of Chicago has many examples of kesa. both with inserts and without.

Circa: 19th century

Origin: Japan

Material: silk brocade

Condition: Good

Dimensions: 46" x 82"

Inventory number: TX4505



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