TOP
 >> Exhibitions
 >> Shosoin Textiles from the Tokyo National Museum Collection

Shosoin Textiles from the Tokyo National Museum Collection

Shosoin Textiles from the Tokyo National Museum Collection / Honkan Room T2   November 10, 2009 (Tue) - December 6, 2009 (Sun)

  
Decoration for Foot of Banner Leg, Brocade with floral design on green ground, Formerly preserved in the Shosoin Repository, Todaiji, Nara period, 8th century

At the beginning of the Meiji period, over 260 textiles were transferred for conservation and research purposes from the Shosoin Repository to the Tokyo National Museum, where they remain today preserved between plates of glass. The Shosoin textiles were produced using a variety of weaves, dyes and embroidery. This exhibition showcases a selection of these, with a focus on weave techniques.

Today, only fragments remain of many of the Shosoin textiles. These include brocade decorations which originally adorned the streamers or "legs" of the ritual banners displayed at the memorial ceremony for Emperor Shomu (r. 724-749), held a year after his death. Pendent decorations from the umbrella-shaped banner canopies are also on display, as well as items of dress such as shitozu socks which still survive today in their original form.

The exhibition also includes a fragment of mottled shokusei fabric which is recorded in the Kokka Chinpo Cho ("List of the Nation's Rare Treasures") as one of the cherished possessions of Emperor Shomu which was dedicated to the Great Buddha of Todaiji temple by Empress Komyo after his death. Additional highlights include a sumptuous karahana floral-patterned textile, thought to be a fragment of a biwa lute cover given to the temple on the same occasion.

From the end of the Taisho period to the beginning of the Showa period, reproductions of the Shosoin textiles were produced in order to preserve the colors and technical details of these fabrics for future generations. Some of the reproductions have been included in this exhibition so that viewers may better imagine how these largely fragmentary textiles appeared in their original state.

The works on view in this gallery have almost never been displayed, making this exhibition an extremely rare opportunity to appreciate the strikingly original designs and the incredible skill evident in by these textiles, produced in the Nara period approximately 1,200 years ago.

 Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Shokusei (a variety of tapestry weave), With mottled design, Formerly preserved in the Shosoin Repository, Todaiji, Nara period, 8th century
Shokusei (a variety of tapestry weave) (Reproduction), With mottled design, Showa era, 20th century, Original: Nara period, 8th century
Sock, Brocade with floral arabesque design on striped ground, Formerly preserved in the Shosoin Repository, Todaiji, Nara period, 8th century
Brocade, Large karahana floral design on pale blue ground, Formerly preserved in the Shosoin Repository, Todaiji, Nara period, 8th century
Brocade, Stylised lionhead design on striped ground, Formerly preserved in the Shosoin Repository, Todaiji, Nara period, 8th century
 Related Events

Gallery Talk "Shosoin Textiles in the Tokyo National Museum Collection" (In Japanese)
Room T2, Honkan
Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 14:00 - 14:30
Speaker: Sawada Mutsuyo, Special Projects Curator (Japanese Textiles)