Noh costume (surihaku) with Chinese bellflowers, Edo period (1615–1868), 18th century
Gold and silver leaf on silk satin; Overall 68 1/4 x 57 1/4 in. (173.4 x 145.4 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1932 (32.30.5)
Blooming in the middle of the eighth lunar month, the Chinese bellflower (kikyô), with its star-shaped blossoms, is celebrated as one of the seven autumn grasses. The execution of the simple floral motif on this robe is reminiscent of background designs painted in gold and silver on poem cards and handscrolls by artists of the Rinpa school, beginning with Tawaraya Sôtatsu (d. ca. 1640).
Surihaku robes are decorated with patterns of gold or silver leaf affixed with paste to a plain-colored background. In Noh performances, they are worn as inner garments, often covered and seen only at the collar or shining almost imperceptibly through a gauzy cloak; sometimes, however, outer garments are draped or wrapped in such a way as to expose parts of the surihaku—the chest area, right sleeve, or even the entire upper portion of the robe.