Very old and rare Actor’s Juban
**featured in the
- International Netsuke Society Journal
, Summer 2008 in “Chasing the Elusive Japanese Dragon” by Dr. Daphne Lange Rosenzweig.
This is a “one in a million” Juban, or under coat intended for wear only in the home, that belonged to an actor of the Kabuki Theatre during the late 1700s, prior to the turn of the century. It was handwoven, hand painted, and hand embroidered utilizing the pure gold threads that had to be “Couched” to the garment.
This is the only time in over 19 years that I have seen full triangularly-shaped metal pieces incorporated into the design onto a textile, as it is here on the dragon’s teeth and claws, not to mention the existence of the glass eyes, a very rare commodity, found only on select garments dating from the Edo Era.
Only natural dyes were used, while the actual hand woven Crepe-like, Chirimen Silk incorporated an extraordinary weaving process which was limited to the wealthy; and, whose technique has been lost to the Japanese for over 100 years. It has been hand painted using the Rice Paste Resist or “Tsutsugaki” method of painting on Silk. This process required that each color be applied separately, while all the others were painted out in the rice paste. Each time a new color was added, the rice paste had to be removed by soaking it out over and over again in the local river water , and then reapplied. This technique required a great amount of skill by the artist as well as being extremely labor intensive. The Master Artisan who wove and painted this magnificent Juban was extraordinarily skilled.
The design was then embroidered in silk and pure Gold threads that were made entirely by hand by first painting a layer of liquid gold on thin handmade rice paper, and then wrapping it around several threads of silk. Because of its delicacy, it could not be sewn into the fabric; but was, instead, laid on top of the garment, and then hand stitched or “Couched” to it.
Because this is such an extravagant piece of antique Japanese art, the image of the large flying Dragon (“Ryu”) is unusually sophisticated and intriguing. The Dragon (“Ryu”) is one of the most historically powerful images in Japan. Rather than inspiring terror, however, dragons, when combined with waves and clouds, carried a much more benevolent interpretation. The stylized, rough wave pattern, (“Araumi”), at the bottom edge of the Juban, when paired with the dragon, is said to be the strength that aids the dragon on his flight to the heavens, lifting him up into the clouds as he labors to take away the sins of earth.
The dragon has been set within an atmospheric landscape, similar to what can be seen on antique hand scrolls. It is not hard to believe that this commanding dragon, wending his way in sinuous splendor among the clouds (themselves considered auspicious), is full of remarkable powers. With its long whiskers hanging down from the side of its mouth, its branching horns, the surrounding blackness, and the strong and vigorous brush strokes, it appears both dreadful and sacred at the same time – almost like a deity.
This is more true than not. With the introduction of Buddhism into Japan, the dragon incorporated those attributes of a guardian deity, and was considered to be a protector of the land, its people and, their crops. A similar symbolism holds true for Japan’s largest religious sect: Shintoism. In their mythology, the gods rode dragons to meetings at the Shrine of Izumo. In Japanese legends, the dragon is often represented as the ruler of the waters, a being who controls water and weather. In this way, they protected the inhabitants from fire and pestilence, and were respected for their safeguarding of the crops. It is not surprising to find agricultural ceremonies in Japan that have been influenced by the dragon. There are also numerous fables that refer to the Dragon Palace under the Sea, while replicas are often found on sword guards (“Tsuba”), and on handles of temple bells. A dragon ascending Mt. Fuji in a cloud symbolizes success in life. They are considered “among the most significant beings in Japanese lore.”
The finer the skill of the Artisan who created this masterful Juban, intended for wear under another garment in the home, the greater the status and wealth of the individual who commissioned the garment. For an Actor, this item of extravagance could only have been worn at home, as the Sumptuary Laws forbid ostentatious wear, especially for the lower classes. Only because of his wealth and popularity would a Kabuki Actor have been able to commission such a magnificent garment. This is a work of art that has remained a treasured heirloom for many years.
A Certificate of Authenticity is included.
TTAC will personally pack and ship via UPS at company expense within the continental United States.