Monk’s Cape, or Kesa

Cape of the type worn by Buddhist monks in Japan. These monks have taken Buddha’s vow of poverty and wear garments made from donated scraps of cloth stitched together. The process of sewing them was in itself a devotional and meditative pursuit.

As this tradition took hold it became more formulaic. The kesa is typically rectangular and comprised out of rectangular pieces of same material with added squares at four corners, reprisenting the cardinal points. The splicing of the small pieces can contribute to an overall pictorial motif or can be done for textural effect. In any case, it is clear that some sumptuous kesas have come a long way from their humble origins.

This kesa, dating to the middle of the 19th century features a field of gold  medalions each containing four blue dragons  surrounded by cloudbands, all set against dark blue and yellow diagonal grid. It is made of twill satin silk with paper brocading.

The paper brocading technique is called kinran. It was invented in China around the 7th century but later on practiced mainly is Japan. It consists of an overlay of gold foil affixed to  fine tough paper made from Mulberry tree bark. After the gold is burnished the sheets of paper are cut into tiny strips to be supplementary woven in as threads on the loom.



Circa: 19th c.

Origin: Japan

Material: Silk and paper

Condition: Antique condition, some wear to the gold kinran. It has been restored and is now in stable condition and backed on heavy linen.

Dimensions: 55" X 73"

Inventory number: TX4786



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