Inventory no.: 3242

Gold Brocaded Maru Obi, Japan


Fine Gold Brocaded Obi (Kimono Sash)


circa 1900-1920

length: 440cm, width: 70cm

This silk and metallic thread obi is of exceptional quality in terms of the fineness of the weaving and its excellent, essentially perfect condition. The design and colours are particularly striking and perhaps are meant to emulate a profusion of Autumn leaves on a mountain-side.

The obi has pure black borders which emphasise the bright golds and silvers in the design. At one end is a clear Mon-style insignia which almost certainly is the emblem of a department store.

Kimonos are loosely fitting robes that overlap in the front of the body. They have no buttons or other fastenings and so a sash (obi) was used to keep them closed. Wearers usually sat either kneeling or cross-legged on a straw-mat floor and so it was important that their garments were loose. Thus kimonos were never particularly tailored. Instead, the interest focussed on the quality of the types of fabrics used, and this was particularly the case in respect of obis.

The most expensive obis were produced in the Nishijin weaving district in Kyoto. It was here that elaborate silk brocades were produced on complex draw looms from the 15th century on. Jacquard loom attachments were introduced in In the last part of the 19th century, in the Meiji period, and even more complex fabrics became possible. Obi with lavish use of gold and silver threads became eagerly sought after. Many upper class Japanese women might have only a few kimonos but they might have many obis, so that often it was the obis over which more care was taken than the kimonos themselves.

The obi here is in essentially perfect condition. Two old paper shop tags with handwritten Japanese are still attached. The item came from the UK; it is likely that it has been in the UK for many decades if not longer.


Watson, W. (ed.), The Great Japan Exhibition: Art of the Edo Period 1600-1868, Royal Academy of Arts/Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981.Provenance:

UK art market

Inventory no.: 3242