Antique Kurotomesode–Parinirvana Of Sakyamuni

Your Regular Flavor Text Is In The Corner Having An Existential Crisis. This Kimono Is Chaos On Black Silk.

As I lay here on the floor staring at the ceiling, filling my cheeks with air and letting it out in short squeekie puffs as though to pretend that I am a giant chipmunk because being a human is too hard right now, I can’t help but think: you know, it takes a lot to render me speechless. It’s one of my best qualities worst qualities attributes. I live for the weird shit. I slurp it up like it’s the bottom and most flavorful puddle of the last of the soup at the bottom of a bowl shaped like the world’s most dramatic elephant–you’ll see. I love me some weird soup. Thing is, I can usually explain weird. Or at least I can line shit up and be all like “Yo that’s bizarre as shit, but it’s probably like this because of _______.” I deal in that all the time, what with my deliberate seeking of internment shenanigans.

But not this one. Not here. Not this time. This time, the more answers I dug up, the more questions I had. The more I inspected it, the more I heard sirens in the distance. The problem? I know, basically, what I’m looking at. I don’t know why the fuck it exists. And that gives me more questions, still. For example, who the fuck commissioned this to be made? Why did they pick this? Why did they put it on a fucking kurotomesode? Why did they make the massive edit that they did?

So go ahead and tab through those pictures if you haven’t already. You’ve gotten to the part of this where you’ve heard my brain cells vibrating to the point of the very real danger of combustion, so you might as well have a peeky-peek. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back? Had a good look? Cool. For the anyone who has no idea what just what in the Mighty Morphin’ Power Fuck they’re looking at, I am going to describe it for you. There’s a lot going on here, so I will try to be succinct.

From the full moon descends a group of celestial maidens who look rather unhappy. They are aloft on a cloud above a large group of mourners, both men and women, in formal ancient robes. They are in a circle, absolutely distraught with grief. On the outskirts of their group, towards the back, there are demons–oni–who are also pretty unhappy to be there. Humans and creatures alike are holding their faces and heads in great sorrow.

At the center of our mourning circle is a thick, black haze. A miasma, perhaps. Is this the cause of our sorrow?

Towards the front and further near the hem, we see animals. Some realistic and some fantastical: rodents such as rabbits and mice, a tiger, a lion, a horse, a frog, an elephant, a dragon, a peacock, a snake, an ox–in fact, all of the animals of the traditional Chinese Zodiac are present as well as other creatures. They, too, are noticably upset.

As we move across the hem, we see mythical phoenixes in flight amongst more misty trees, and yet another moon, except this time it is a waning crescent. On the inside of the kimono on the hakkake, we are greeted by only phoenixes flying through the mist.

I had some help with this, piece, because while I had seen this image before, I actually didn’t remember that I had seen it and it had been so long ago that I sure as shit didn’t know anything about it. I would like to give credit where credit is due for pointing me in the right direction. As soon as I have permission to do that, I will update this paragraph. UPDATE: Worship her here!

Yeah, so before I reveal this artwork, I want to remind you that a kurotomesode is the most formal kimono for a married woman. It is for auspicious occasions; she would wear this to events such as her child’s wedding. This doesn’t have any weird hallmarks of being a performance kimono. It is not a geisha’s hikizuri. It is built like a regular-ass kurotomesode. Keep that in mind when I tell you what’s on it.

What you’re looking at is a composited rendition of the death of Sakyamuni; an Indian prince turned sage who was said to have entered Nirvana at the time of his death. Read more about it here. Here are two of the most famous depictions of this:

And here is a rendition that was done in the Edo Period (1603-1867) where all of the important figures have been replaced by penises, and some of the faces are vulvas. LOL art history is a delight.

Pictured: LOL Mourning wood.

That’s one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork ever conceived, fucking fight me.

Now, one thing I noticed pretty quickly about the representation of this artwork on the kurotomesode is that it’s kind of a composite of a few different expressions of this piece. It has the dramatic, most relatable elephant of one, but the basic positioning and body language of the celestial maidens of another.

Pictured: Fucking mood.

One very…how shall I say…we’re gonna go with interesting change–artistic fucking license if you will–that the artist of this piece made though; an awfully peculiar fucking omission:

Pictured: WHERE

They took out Sakyamuni himself and replaced him with an oppressive black mist.

Okay this is the part where I loop back around real quick and remind anyone reading this–in case they forgot by way of shock or by way of having come here to learn (I’m really very sorry)–that a kurotomesode is an extremely formal garment, and it is for happy occasions.

Let me give you some more examples, in case you’re not familiar, of what kinds of garments these look like. I promise, by the way, that while I’m over here literally vibrating, I’m not being condescending. I’ve recently learned that I have a wider audience than I thought, and I’m trying to be thorough and accessible at the same time. It’s a weird line to walk sometimes. But I think with especially this piece, it would be helpful to see what they look like.

I don’t think I have to point out that these don’t have fucking funeral processions or overturned elephants on them.

While I chewed on that, the source of the artwork, I proceeded with my evaluation and you’ll notice that this is a showcase and not a “What’s The Damage?” That’s because it’s in fine condition. There’s a touch of what looks like UV damage, but it’s where an obi would sit, so I’m not exactly falling over myself to fix it. So it came to details.

The seller listed it as an antique, and it came from Japan. The seller was a delightful person, and all of their prices are highly reasonable so I don’t think they’re trying to pull a fast one. I’m gonna be real with you, unless it’s fucking amazing, I tend not to buy or really even be super interested in things that are newer than the early 1950’s. I was ready for this to be an exception to the rule, because looking at it, I would have pegged it in the 70’s at the oldest from the photos.

For reference, those three kurotomesode I have pictured up there? The newest one is in the middle, and it’s from the 1930’s.

But then it got here and…well, Becky fucking blue screened. I’m really good at dating things. I say that with severe confidence issues and imposter syndrome–my ability to date a thing is a goddamn super power. You get all that? Good. Because I have no fucking idea how old this kimono is.

The texture and thickness of the silk lends itself to the early twenties. The kamon (family crests) are big as fuck, which leans that direction, too. There was a split in the seam on the lining where I found a square of momi (red silk from antique kimono) that was being used as a thread anchor. It was the butter momi, too. She’s also fading grey and not brown. And that hem is so thicccc that I want to make noodles out of it, which is an older trend as well.

So here’s the breaks: she looks modern. She feels and is constructed like a piece from the 20’s at the latest. And that’s making me short circuit, and it’s also why we have that nice “antique” label at the top of the page. Because if I had to commit to something, my background in art history demands that I have to commit to what it feels like before what it looks like. Because looks can be deceiving.

Besides, we already have a garment for super formal happy occasions that has one of the most inappropriate things I could possibly imagine on it, so all bets are off. And before anyone tries to lean in this direction, I will repeat–because it bears repeating–this is absolutely not a stage piece. It has zero hallmarks of a performance piece. It’s a regular ass kurotomesode except for the fact that it might have been designed for either the world’s most blatantly passive aggressive future mother in law or an actual crazy person, and nowhere in between.

LOL imagine if someone had this commissioned for them because they felt that becoming someone’s mother in law made them worthy of enlightenment. Fucking yikes.

And now all the way down here at the bottom, I will add that my understanding of the depiction of this event is that it isn’t appropriate at a wedding attire theme. But! I actually don’t know enough about any sect of Buddhism to make that call definitively. So if you know a good reason why this would be here, feel free to correct me. I love being wrong and corrected, because it gets me closer to my goal of knowing ALL THE THINGS about my favorite subject.

My final word about this piece for this blog entry is that while I was taking the glamor shot–when I pin it closed as though it’s being worn–the skirt kept doing this:

Photo: High…fashion?

Regardless of the bizarre art choice for this specific kimono, it was just a joy to photograph. I literally can’t wait to wear this to someone’s wedding. I am the fucking psychopath this was made for.

Join me next time when I’ll talk about the fun side of kimono purchase roulette, and very soon I’ll have a completed restoration to show off. Until then, may the spirit of the Dramaphant™ be with you.



One thought on “Antique Kurotomesode–Parinirvana Of Sakyamuni


    Also, this is SUCH a wild theme for a kurotomesode. The replacement of particularly sacred or special things with mist is *super* Edo-style. You see this most often in woodcuts/paintings of Edo itself, where the shogunal palace is replaced by coy mist. Everyone knew it was there, you just couldn’t *show* it. So not only is a weird theme, but it’s a weird theme using conventions that were long out of date by the time this kimono was made. Fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

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