Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Silk Roads, Other Roads: Proceedings of the 8th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 26-28, 2002, Northampton, Massachusetts


Copyright 2002 by the author.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, recently acquired a remarkable group of over thirty-five Japanese textiles, the majority of which are probably pieces from kosode robes of the Edo period (1615-1868). This paper will serve as a brief introduction to the collection, which will be on view next summer in the Museum’s Japanese galleries.

This introduction to the recent acquisition consists of three parts. The first part discusses a few of the pieces from the recently acquired group that have companions in the Nomura collection of the National Museum of Japanese History (Kokuritsu Rekishi Minzoku Hakubutsukan) in Sakura, Chiba, Japan. The second part presents two of the earliest pieces in the group, one in comparison with a similar design in a kosode order book, and the other with special attention to technique. The final part focuses on early examples of the yūzen technique.

Comparisons with the Nomura Collection

Several of the fragments in the collection correspond to textiles used in the kosode screens of Nomura Shōjirō’s famous collection, which is in the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura, Chiba prefecture, Japan. Nomura Shōjirō (1879–1943) was a dealer in Japanese art of all types and a collector and connoisseur of Japanese textiles. He had an almost incalculable influence on the collecting of Japanese textiles, especially in this country, where museum collections from Los Angeles to New York benefited from patrons who had purchased textiles from him. In the early twentieth century, as Japanese textile collections were being sold, Nomura acquired fine robes and fragments of robes dating from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Many of the garments were no longer complete, having been cut up into pieces for various purposes—perhaps for religious use, perhaps for mounting paintings, perhaps for other uses. Patiently, Nomura gathered fragments and slowly reassembled kosode. In one hundred instances where he could not recreate a complete garment, he hit upon the idea of making kosode screens in which the robe fragments were pasted to Japanese screens in the form of complete kosode hanging on robe racks. The kosode screens echoed a Japanese tradition of painted screens depicting robes on robe racks; however, Nomura’s screens were not painted but made from actual kosode fragments.

All together, twelve of the Metropolitan Museum’s new textiles, about one third, correspond with screens from the Nomura collection.2 A few of the correspondences will be discussed here.