Exquisite Stitch: Japanese Embroidery at Heather James Fine Art

  • PALM DESERT, California
  • /
  • June 02, 2014

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"Dragon and Flaming Pearl". Japan, Meiji period, Silk thread embroidery, 96 x 60 in.
"Peacock, Peahen, and Peonies", Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1912), Gold-wrapped silk embroidery over paper padding, 81 x 59 in.
"Fukusa of Cranes and Golden Tortoise", Japan, Meiji Period (1868-1912), Silk and Gold Thread Embroidery, 37 x 33 1/2 in.

Heather James Fine Art is pleased to present Exquisite Stitch, an exclusive exhibition of 19th century Japanese embroidery. 

The Meiji era produced some of the highest quality silk textiles. The engravings of oil paintings inspired the embroideries, with the artist of the painting and the artist at the textile factory maintaining a close relationship. Japanese embroidery technique goes back more than one thousand years. It originated in China and was eventually introduced to Japan by Korean artisans; around the same time Buddhism entered Japan.

The Meiji era marks the restoration of Imperial Rule to Japan after several centuries of government by the samurai class, and the rapid modernization of the country. Between 1639 and 1854 Japan had been closed to foreign contact except through the Dutch and the Chinese in controller trading stations at Nagasaki. During this time the best artists were sponsored by the Daimyo, or feudal lords, who each governed a province. These retained artists had a guaranteed income for life, while others worked independently to provide the same kind of luxury goods for the rich merchant class. The system allowed skills to develop to a high degree, with apprenticeships for painters, potters, lacquers, and metalworkers often extended over ten years or more thus allowing the preservation of traditional skills, and a continuity of high quality work. Then with the rapid Westernization following the Imperial Restoration, the traditional way of life changed and the artists used their traditional skills to make objects suited for Western markets. In 1867, the year before the restoration, the government had sent a delegation to the Paris Exposition led by the fourteen year old son of the shogun. Independently the great samurai clans of Saga and Satsuma in Kyushu sent deputations carrying ceramics and various antiquities to Paris. From that time the craze for Japanese wares swept Europe and America, and the Japanese potters were quick to step up rates of production in response.

Also on exhibit are fine examples of Japanese fukusa. The practice of laying fukusa over presents placed on wooden or lacquer trays became wide spread during the Edo period, (17th to 19th century). What begun as a functional practice to protect gifts from the elements, took on a decorative life of its own. Well-to-do families owned large numbers of fukusa and often commissioned famous artists of the time to design exclusively for them. Fukusa were made of square or oblong pieces of silk, lined and often embellished with tassels, and sometimes bearing the monogram or family crest on the reverse. Etiquette decreed that the fukusa were not usually to be considered part of the gift itself and were to be returned covering a token gift or an acknowledgement of the gift. However, some recipients such as bureaucrats, who accepted gifts from people currying favors, elected to keep the fukusa along with the gifts they covered, thus adding to their own store of gift covers.

Heather James Fine Art
45188 Portola Avenue
Palm Desert, California
About Heather James Fine Art

With two fantastic galleries, located in Palm Desert, California and Jackson, Wyoming, Heather James Fine Art offers a rare look into art history’s past and present. Focusing on a wide breadth of genres including cultural art and antiquities, Impressionist and Modern, Post-War and Contemporary, American and Latin American, Old Masters, cutting-edge Contemporary and Photography, the gallery showcases blue chip and cutting edge contemporary art while still maintaining a respect for the integrity of antiquity and classical masterpieces. For more information, please visit www.heatherjames.com.

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