22 May 2014 - 10 August 2014


On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the museum, the Baur Foundation is pleased to present its collection of Japanese Buddhist textiles, acquired by Alfred Baur (1865-1951) in 1927. This collection is composed of one hundred and twenty-one altar cloths, dating mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries. These small-sized, square cloths would have been used to cover the side tables in front of the main altar of a temple hall. Despite their modest dimensions, these cloths, or uchishiki, are an important testimony to the extraordinary craftsmanship of the Kyoto weavers of the Edo period (1603-1868). Alfred Baur’s collection is almost entirely made up of forms of silk weaving classified in Japan as nishiki and kinran (often translated as “brocade”). With their rich polychrome designs, enhanced with gold and silver thread, they represent the most complex and luxurious forms of weaving of the period.

The majority of the textiles presented in this exhibition are decorated with traditional Sino-Japanese designs. Among the most common of these, are the dragon and phoenix, often accompanied by auspicious designs and a variety of good luck symbols known collectively as takara-zukushi. In addition, the phoenix is frequently shown next to flowering branches of the paulownia tree (kiri), which, according to Chinese legend, is the only plant on which this legendary bird would alight. Flowers also feature prominently in both the Chinese and Japanese decorative arts, particularly as symbolic flowers of the four seasons: peony (Spring), lotus (Summer), chrysanthemum (Autumn), and plum (Winter).