Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sarasa Arabesque Patterns (Part III)
Art Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

There are two other posts on this blogspot that have centered on Arabesque Patterns and for your convenience I have listed them below.

Traditional Japanese Arabesque Patterns (Part I)
Traditional Japanese Arabesque Patterns (Part II)

Japanese Sarasa had its origins in the 16th Century. Old sarasa was made of fine cotton cloth dyed by one of two resist processes: block printing or wax painting. The predominant colors were dark red and indigo with some creamy yellow and purple. Patterns varied widely but as a rule were outlined in black and showed birds, animals, flowers, grasses, human figures, scrolls, arabesques, and the squirrel-and-grape design, the last directly traceable to European influence. Some small dotted designs are thought to have been made especially for the Japanese trade, but this cannot be substantiated.

Much of the sarasa imported during the Momoyama period recall designs which earlier had been imitated in the decoration of leather by the kyokechi dyeing method. They recalled also the flower designs of Fujiwara. With these recollections, Edo dyers now began to revive some of the small-figured designs called komon that had formerly been most frequently used in leather dyeing. This revived the use of rice paste because they believed it to be an effective and durable resist for their silks than the wax used for imported sarasa, which was woven from vegetable fibers.

Originally the term sarasa is derived from the Portuguese word for calico. During the Edo Period, Portuguese traders introduced cotton calicos from India into Japan where these beautiful, exotic fabrics quickly became enormously popular among wealthy samurai and merchant classes. These calicos, with vivid colors and striking abstract geometrics, were very distinctive to the Japanese eye when compared with traditional cotton and hemp indigo fabrics. Indian calicos were expensive and therefore small pieces were used to make valuable and colorful items like bags for tea ceremonies, tobacco cases and pouches. Already skillful at making distinctive textiles, the Japanese easily replicated the hitherto expensive Indian calicos into their own style and production techniques. While maintaining the eye-catching floral and scallop Indian fabric patterns, Japanese textile makers applied their indigenous katazome (rice paste resist dyeing and stencils) textile printing skills to making domestic sarasa, characterized by shades of kakishibu (madder, reds and browns) with distinctive Japanese floral designs and geometric shapes. As domestic sarasa became widely produced, less expensive, and more common than the imported calico, sarasa became a standard for wider use among the Japanese population. Sarasa was also used in ordinary domestic applications like futon covers and wrapping cloths.

Sarasa Arabesque Patterns (Part III)[2]

Arabesque Pattern Number 263.

Arabesque Pattern Number 296.

Arabesque Pattern Number 297.

Arabesque Pattern Number 304.

Arabesque Pattern Number 316.

Arabesque Pattern Number 322.

Arabesque Pattern Number 323.

Arabesque Pattern Number 330.

Arabesque Pattern Number 331.

Arabesque Pattern Number 339.

Arabesque Pattern Number 340.

Arabesque Pattern Number 341.

Arabesque Pattern Number 342.

[1] Textile Design In Japan: Traditional Arabesque”, Kamon Yoshimoto, Graphic-sha Publishing Co. Ltd, Tokyo (1977).


[3] H.B. Minnich, Japanese Costumes, Prentice-Hall International, London (1963).

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