Traditional Japanese Noh theater combines elements of dance, drama, music and poetry in an art form that emphasizes the aesthetic and symbolic. Splendid costumes relieve the otherwise austere Noh stage, and are a vital part of Noh drama: a character's status and state of mind are confined through prescribed styles of dress. Derived from court dress, Noh costumes diverged from fashionable kimono-type garments to become a distinct variety of stage dress by the early Edo period (seventeenth century). Noh robes are classified into several categories of outer and inner garments worn for various male and female robes; each has its own characteristics, but all Noh robes are sumptuous, in accord with the elegant and eternal beauty expressed by this aristocratic theatrical art.
This installation, which coincides with The Arts of Hon'ami Koetsu, Japanese Renaissance Master (on view at the Museum from July 29 through October 29, 2000), will include eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century examples of several types of Noh robes from the Museum's permanent collection of Costume and Textiles. Among these are karaori robes, intricately woven in pictorial motifs with floating wefts that give the impression of embroidery; robes embellished with floral embroidery and with shimmering stenciled patterns done in gold and silver leaf; and a male inner robe woven with a bold check pattern. The installation will also include photographs of Noh costumes worn on stage.