Yorke Antique Textiles

A collection of antique and vintage textiles from around the world

Item Details
Mid-to late Meiji (1880-1912)
A large fukusa featuring yuzen-dyed standing cranes, with embroidery highlights. Very good condition. 26" x 32". Following is an excellent excerpt by an unknown author at Oberlin College [some references involving both Japan & China have been changed to just Japan for the sake of relevancy to the art-piece being considered] : "In Japan the crane was known as 'the bird of happiness' and was often referred to as 'Honorable Lord Crane'. The Japanese saw the crane's white standing for purity, the red head for vitality. The birds were associated with fidelity (faithfulness and devotion to one's partner) because they paired for life. They were also symbols of longevity and in Japan were often drawn with pine trees, tortoises, stones and bamboo - all symbols of long life. Cranes were also associated with good fortune and prosperity so they are often painted with the sun - a symbol of social ambition. Japanese creation myths talk of a legendary warrior who conquered his foes to extend the borders of ancient Japan. On his death, his soul took the form of a crane and flew away. Legend has it that Yorimoto in the 12th century attached labels to the legs of cranes and asked people who captured them to record their location on the label and re-release the birds - a very early program of bird banding to find out about the movements of a species. Some of Yorimoto's birds were claimed to have still been alive several centuries after his death, giving rise to the notion that a crane lived for a thousand years. Another legend records that at Kakamura in the 11th century a feudal leader celebrated a Buddhist festival in which birds and animals are set free, by releasing hundreds of cranes as thanksgiving after a successful battle. Each had a prayer strip on its leg to pray for those killed in battle. This appears to be the first recorded association of the crane with celebration of peace and prayers for those lost in war. The oldest known use of the motif of a thousand cranes is a 15m (50ft) long scroll by Sotatsu, an artist of the early 17th century. The theme was repeated innumerable times in art on screens and walls. Inevitably the crane's reputation for long life and prosperity became a symbol of good health, and origami cranes became a popular gift for those who were ill. It is apparent that as populations of cranes declined, artists drew on the work of other artists for details of the birds. When a crane stands, it appears to have a black tail, but the only black feathers are on the trailing edges of their long wings. Yet for centuries, many artists in China and Japan portrayed flying cranes with black tail feathers. While the symbolism is clearly more important than biological accuracy, it is interesting to note that the symbol came very close to outliving the bird that inspired it. In Japan the crane was called 'tancho' meaning 'red crown'. The red and white of the crane became important colors in Japanese symbolism and art. Because of their association with fidelity, prosperity and longevity, the crane motif and these colors are a common symbol in marriages in Japan. They are often used on the bride's kimono; on announcing their engagement the bride and groom often exchange decorations shaped like cranes; sweet cakes baked in the shape of cranes, and even ice sculptures of cranes are likely to be part of the wedding celebrations." Items 2740 and 2741 (priced separately) were obviously made by the same maker: they were purchased from the same family, are of a similar size, material, tassels, and exactly the same particular lining cloth.
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