Japanese Monk’s Cape (Kesa)
Kesa is a cape worn by Buddhist monks, and it is a garment of humble origins. Buddhist monks survived on public donations of food and created their wearables from old raggedy clothes, donated as well. The materials were cut into small squares and stitched together into a large square, worn draped over the left shoulder and secured under the right arm. Eventually these capes evolved into objects of splendor as wealthy merchants and aristocrats donated sumptuous brocades and new patterns were invented by the placement of the small squares. Each Kesa has between 5-25 columns, the higher the status of the wearer the more columns. The insertion of squares of different pattern at specific places is for ritualistic purposes. The creation of the Kesa itself is a form of meditation and humility.
The paper-based brocade (or Kinran) used for this kesa has images of cranes, flowers and leaves all against a lush green background. Six small rectangles are strategically placed using a darker blue fabric with images of dragons, phoenixes, and flowers.
Circa: Late 19th century
Material: Silk, paper and metallic thread brocade
Dimensions: 80" x 45"
Inventory number: TX5022