During the centuries covered by the exhibition, warfare evolved from combat between small bands of equestrian archers to the clash of vast armies of infantry and cavalry equipped with swords, spears, and even matchlock guns. Arms and armor were needed in unprecedented quantities, and craftsmen responded with an astonishingly varied array of armor that was both functional and visually spectacular, a celebration of the warrior’s prowess.
Even after 1615, when the Tokugawa military dictatorship brought an end to battle, samurai families continued to commission splendid arms and armor for ceremonial purposes. Because the social rank, income, and prestige of a samurai family were strictly determined by the battlefield valor of their ancestors, armor became even more sumptuous as the embodiment of an elite warrior family’s heritage.
Myōchin Munenori, nimaitachidō tōsei gusoku (armor) (detail), mid Edo period, 18th century. Shakudō, lacing, silver, wood, gold, brocade, fur, bronze, brass, leather. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Photo: Brad Flowers.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalog, Art of Armor: Samurai Armor from The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, with essays by leading Japanese samurai armor experts.
Samurai: Armor from The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection is organized by The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection. Its Phoenix premiere is made possible through the generous support of our presenting sponsors, the J.W. Kieckhefer Foundation and the Margaret T. Morris Foundation, with additional support provided by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Sharron and Delbert R. Lewis, Roberta Aidem, APS, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Asian Arts Council.
Unknown, eboshi kabuto (eboshi-shaped helmet) and menpō (half mask), late Muromachi to Momoyama period, late 16th century. Iron, gold lacquer, bronze, horn, horsehair. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Photo: Brad Flowers.
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