The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is showcasing a large collection of samurai armor and art from one of the world’s leading private collections.
“Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” opens this Sunday, April 14, and features more than 140 objects, such as this horse and rider. Visitors will learn about the complex typology of these elegant suits and how they developed over time. For example, this horse armor (bagai), horse mask (bamen) and horse tack (bagu) date from the early to mid-Edo period, 17th–18th century. They’re made of leather, gold, fabric, wood, horsehair and lacing. The armor is of the tatehagidō type and dates to the 17th century. It’s made of iron, leather, gold and fur.
Beside numerous suits of armor for men and horses, there are also weapons, military equipment and brilliant silk screens showing samurai in battle. The helmets are especially diverse and were used to show off the wearer’s status and individual identity, and as a way to put fear into the hearts of the enemy.
What’s remarkable about some of these suits of armor is that they were made long after the heyday of the samurai had finished, but Japan’s wealthy elite still hearkened back to the age when their ancestors fought in armor such as this. Europe, of course, went through a similar process of glorifying the medieval knights.
“Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection” runs through August 4.
Photograph by Brad Flowers. © The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.