Posted 8 months ago
This beautiful silk Japanese panel (85cm x 137cm) of the Meiji era (1868-1912) features lions on the prowl in a ravine with a small descending stream and palm trees. The three-dimensional quality of the lions is due in part to the painterly technique of yuzen birodo or dyed cut-velvet. These pieces involved a multiple stage process: (1) hand-weaving of the silk velvet with the insertion of copper wires to create loops, (2) painting and resist-dying of the uncut piece, and (3) careful cutting with a sharp blade of loops in small areas to create tufted pile and enhance the sense of depth. The discovery of the technique around 1880 is attributed to Nishimura Sozayemon and his famous Kyoto studio.
The panel is mounted on a dragon- and cloud- patterned silk brocade surround. In the lower right-hand corner, the piece is signed ORyu (King Dragon?) in Kanji. Lions became a popular art subject in Japan around the turn-of-the century after paintings by Takeuchi Seiho. Some believe that Japanese export textiles of this era achieved an unparalleled level of sophistication, as detailed in the Ashmolean's exhibit, Threads of Silk and Gold: Ornamental Textiles for Meiji Japan, and Vollmer's edited work, Re-envisioning Japan: Meiji Fine Art Textiles.