Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

1.26.2011

Whose Sleeves?

 [Detail view: Whose Sleeves? (Tagasode), Momoyama period (1573–1615), late 16th century Japan. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on gilded paper. 57 1/16 x 136 9/16 in. (144.9 x 346.8 cm); folded: 65 x 26 1/2 x 5 in. (165.1 x 67.3 x 12.7 cm). H. O. Havemeyer collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929 (29.100.493–4).  Metropolitan Museum of Art.]

Okay, I'm hooked on Connections, the Met's new weekly interactive feature launched earlier this month (see this past post for details). Today, museum educator Joeseph Loh references pieces in the Met's collection while sharing his thoughts on the ideal woman, and curator of prints Nadine Orenstein discusses the ideal man.

Toward the end of his brief talk, Loh mentions his fondness for a specific type of Japanese painting, Tagasode (or Whose Sleeves). In these works layers of possessions -- here folded cotton and silk kimonos -- convey a portrait of someone but we never actually see a figure. The paintings are a bit like the Momoyama (1573–1615) and Edo (1615–1868) periods version of "What's in her handbag?". Or more precisely, to paraphrase the Met, the idea is that a picture of a person expressed through his or her personal belongings can be a stronger likeness than a conventional portrait. Click here to see the painted screen in full.

12 comments:

HuntStudio said...

Loved listening to Connections from the Met, especially Carrie Baratt's talk on Small Things, we share the fascination. What is it about art speak..so poetic.
Thanks for sharing this lovely gem.

Style Court said...

HS --

So nice to hear from another fan of the series. I loved Small Things and the installments on black and white were great, too.

Tokyo Jinja said...

You've got me hooked too. And I think you really need to visit Japan...

Emily Amy Gallery said...

I need to check out Connections. It sounds fabulous. I have always loved Japanese art, as I think you know. I will just add these beautiful pieces to my list!

Style Court said...

TJ --

Oh how I'd love to see the cherry blossoms!

Style Court said...

Emily -- it's right up your alley, definitely.

Emile de Bruijn said...

Yes in medieval Japan refined ladies hardly ever showed their faces, and they defined themselves through the colour and fabric combinations of their layered kimonos. So they would purposefully leave a sleeve hanging out from under the blinds of their carriage window, or from behind a screen.

As a result you get these rather wonderful records of Japanese medieval men about town swooning and obsessing over women's kimonos' colour and pattern cominations - they had nothing else to go on, except perhaps the lady's skill in poetry and calligraphy. All very metrosexual avant la lettre.

And it also shows how far back the roots of the Japanese 'hidden beauty' aesthetic goes.

Style Court said...

Emile --

Your vivid imagery adds a whole other dimension to this -- thanks!

home before dark said...

I have been struck lately by John Saladino's petit point pillow with the words: Inner Peace Through Possessions. At first I thought it just tongue in check cheekiness. My husband did remind me that when a group of us went to see Out of Africa and Karen Blixen says something like, "I love my things!: Every one looked at me and chuckled. Loved Emile's addition to the art of knowing one another through fabrics.

Tokyo Jinja said...

I so agree with home before dark's comment. When Karen Blixen left for Africa, her things were the embodiment of home, objects that gave proof to her identity. I still feel that way as an expatriate particularly - it creeps into my posts all the time - even in an era of easy plane travel and skype.

Tokyo Jinja said...

And people's wealth was often completely tied up in kimonos. They were the first things saved in a fire....

Catherine Nolin said...

Thank you for introducing me to Connections. I am hooked as well. Catherine