Armor and Helmet with Paulownia Crests
Workshop of Mitsusada
Gallery Rotation Winter 2014
Workshop of Mitsusada
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868)
Armor and helmet
Late Edo period (1615–1868) to Meiji period (1868–1912)
Metal, lacquer, silk cords, and silk fabric
Gift of James Abbott, 2006/1.146A–M
Intimidating but elegant, this armor and helmet are excellent examples of how samurai wished to be seen in battle. The design of the large head ornament, for instance, which is shaped like a crescent moon and features a fierce-looking facemask with a white mustache, was meant to intimidate enemies from a distance. But the battlefield was also a place to showcase one’s aesthetic taste. Indeed the samurai warrior was accomplished in both martial arts and cultural pursuits. In this suit of armor the attention to detail, the use of quality materials, and the immaculate technique testify to the owner’s sophistication. Silk brocade with delicate flower motifs is used for the sleeve lining and thigh covers, and the body armor features intricate gold lacquer and a leather lining printed with a design of lions and peonies. Although samurai battles had ended by the early seventeenth century, armor and helmets continued to be produced for ceremonial purposes.
Intimidating but elegant, this set of armor and helmet is a great example of how a premodern samurai desired to be seen in battle. Versatility in both martial arts and cultural pursuits was de rigueur for the samurai warrior: the battlefield was a place not only to prove one’s bravery, but also to showcase aesthetic taste.
The design of this large head ornament, shaped like a crescent moon and featuring a fierce-looking facemask with a white mustache, was meant to intimidate enemies from a distance. The attention to detail and the use of quality materials and immaculate technique testify to the owner’s sophistication. Silk brocade with delicate flower motifs is used for the sleeve lining and thigh covers, and the body armor features intricate gold lacquer and a leather lining printed with a design of lions and peonies. Although samurai battles had ended by the early seventeenth century, armor and helmets continued to be produced for ceremonial purposes.
(Label for UMMA Japanese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)
Elaborate suit of armors were produced since the mid-Heian period (794 - 1185) throughout the Edo period (1615 - 1868) in Japan. Battle field was a place to show one's wealth and lineage, as well as heroism; armors thus embodied sophisticated taste and high craftsmanship. Often times flamboyance was emphasized more than practicality. The large crescent-moon ornament on the helmet here is a good example. The family crests such as this paulownia crest are often decorated on the armor since they indicate the lineage of the samurai. The household of this armor's original owner may have been a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a military ruler of Momoyama period (1583-1615).
The armor is comprised of a round helmet with a neck protector and a crescent-moon shaped ornament; a mask with fake mustache; an upper-body protector with sleeves from waist down and paulownia crest in the middle; a thigh cover; two metal leg protectors; two arm and hand protectors. The suit is stored in a black lacquered box with the gold crest.
The helmet is made of red-painted metal lined with indigo-dyed cotton fabric and deer skin leather trim, which is attached to the metal helmet. The cotton is quilted with indigo-dyed cotton threads. There are two loops on side and one loop in the back, to hold a code for tying below the wearer’s chin. The code is indigo-dyed and then plaited; there are some fading areas. On the outside of helmet, the paulownia crest is on side flaps (to protect ears). There is a hole in the middle of the helmet for a head ornament. The metal leaves are interlaced with cotton strings. Ceremonial knots of yellow code on the back. It weights about 10 pounds.
The helmet ornament is in crescent moon shape and made of lacquered wood in gold color. There is a slot on the back to place the ornament in the helmet. The slot is nailed to the wood; it looks like a later creation.
The mask covers below the wearer’s eyes, ears, nose and mouth, and down to front neck. The upper part is made of metal; the neck is in metal pieces and cotton codes. The mustache is made of animal hair. The mouth has fake teeth painted with gold.
The arm and hand protectors are made of red-painted metal shell and silk fabric with small flower motifs lined with deerskin and indigo-dyed cotton fabric. The shell is consisted of small metal panels connected with chains. The hand protectors have three different crests. The protectors are tied with indigo dyed cotton codes on back.
The leg protectors are also made of red-painted metal with silk fabric lining. On the metal surface of each piece, there are the artist’s signature and seal.
The body is consisted of metal panels, lacquered with gold in design of peonies and vines. The family crest appears in the middle. Metal knots are in chrysanthemum design. Inside is lined with leather printed with lions and peonies. The shoulder pads are made of cotton quilt in tortoise shell design.
The apron for thighs is made of silk fabric quilt and metal panels. The metal panels protect thighs. The apron belt is made of cotton kasuri; the back is lined with indigo dyed cotton.
The thick belt for the body is made of padded silk fabric.
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