Loading Events

Shimmering Silks: Traditional Japanese Textiles

April 24 @ 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
|Recurring Event (See all)

Japanese people have used silk to create items of clothing and decorative works of art for hundreds of years, ever since the cultivation of silkworms was introduced to Japan from China during the third and fourth centuries.

Shimmering Silks: Traditional Japanese Textiles celebrates 18th- and 19th-century silk pieces from the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum, which has been collecting fine Japanese textiles for more than a century. Some were purchased by the museum while others were generously given by patrons and donors over decades.

Some of the earliest silk textiles in Japan show the influence of Chinese patterns and designs, but over time, the Japanese developed their own unique body of garment types and symbolic motifs. The main centers of traditional silk textiles in Japan were the old imperial capitals of Nara and Kyoto, supplying a clientele that included the imperial family, members of the hereditary nobility, feudal lords and ladies, high-ranking Buddhist clergy and the uppermost echelons of civil society.

Between 1615 and 1868, when the city of Edo became the seat of shoguns, or military dictators, silk textiles were also produced there in large quantities. This continued when the city was renamed Tokyo in 1868.

Silk textiles in Japan have long been regarded as luxury items due to the high cost of raw materials and the amount of time and expertise it took to weave the cloths. Additionally, individual silk pieces could be embellished through specialized techniques of brocading, embroidery or hand-painting.

The most lavish and stunning examples of traditional Japanese silk textiles were used for imperial and Buddhist ceremonies, performances of Kabuki and Noh theater, formal wear and wedding costumes. The luxurious quality and shimmering appearance of silk fibers greatly enhanced the special occasions whenever they were worn or displayed.

View All Events