One of our recent Artwork of the Week picks on Facebook, a Japanese fireman’s coat from the late 1800s or early 1900s, sparked much interest within our Facebook community. Due to the positive feedback and dialogue the DAM staff received, we thought we’d share additional information on this artwork, including detail photos of the coat.
This garment, quilted (sashiko) cotton cloth with freehand paste-resist decoration (tsutsugaki) is on view in the exhibition Cover Story—part of the Denver Art Museum’s campus wide exhibition Spun: Adventures in Textiles. Japanese firemen's coats, such as this one, were reversible. When fighting fires, the coat was worn as shown, together with close-fitting trousers, a hood, and gloves. Saturated with water, these garments gave protection against flames. A bold, legible pattern on the back identified the fireman’s brigade. For festive occasions, the pictorial side faced outward. This coat shows part of a Japanese folktale about the Toad Spirit offering to teach the robber Jiraya magic, provided he used it only to benefit humanity.
Take a look through our slide show to see the fireman’s coat from different perspectives. You can see the garment on view in Cover Story, on Level 6 of the North Building. Cover Story will run until September 22, 2013 and is included in general admission.
Image credit: Fireman's coat, Japan, late 1800s or early 1900s. Denver Art Museum Neusteter Textile Collection. Funds from Mrs. Solomon Guggenheim, by exchange.