Exhibition | Iron Men: The Artistry of Iron in Samurai Armor

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 24, 2021

From the press release for the exhibition:

Iron Men: The Artistry of Iron in Samurai Armor
The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, The Samurai Collection, Dallas, 1 May — 3 October 2021

Curated by Jessica Liu Beasley

On May 1, The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection will unveil its newest exhibition, Iron Men: The Artistry of Iron in Samurai Armor. The exhibition will be on display through October 3. The show examines the vital role that iron played in Japanese warrior culture and technology from the third century, when the knowledge of ironworking arrived in Japan, to the end of the samurai era in the nineteenth century. Over eighty artworks, including several masterpieces and many objects that have never before been on display, will be showcased in Iron Men. An array of samurai ironworks—full suits of armor, helmets, accessories, weapons, and horse tack—have been assembled to highlight the ways in which this seemingly unyielding metal gave way to works of protective art.

“It’s interesting to think about the common uses of iron and how, with the samurai and our collection, iron is the medium the Japanese artisans used to create the amazing pieces on display,” said Niña Barbier-Mueller Tollett, Director of Cultural Affairs for The Samurai Collection. “In the new exhibition, I think Iron Men is really referring to the craftsmen, as well as the samurai. We are excited to be bringing this aspect of samurai history to light.”

Samurai were the warriors of premodern Japan who shaped the country’s history for centuries. Their culture was one of pageantry, violence, beauty, and honor, and their spectacular armor was worn during epic battles and glorious ceremonies. The exhibition is a testament to the peerless craftsmanship of the metalworkers and reveals how they mined, smelted, and ultimately forged iron into lifesaving armor. Transcending utility, components were often meticulously inlaid with gold and silver, adorning high-ranking samurai, the daimyo, in wearable art that skillfully merged artistic form and protective function. Suits of armor from the powerful Ikeda and Date families show how these expertly crafted iron suits gave the warriors a distinguished identity and prominent appearance.

“It is remarkable to see these masterworks of iron from the collection presented together,” said Jessica Liu Beasley, curator of Iron Men and curator of The Samurai Collection. “Samurai armor is often coated in layers of lacquer that conceal the quality of the iron beneath, hiding any flaws, mistakes, or carelessness. In Iron Men, the plates are exposed, revealing every texture and lustrous finish. The virtuosity of the armorers is clearly displayed for the visitors to experience.”

The sections of the exhibition follow the story of Japanese ironworking from its introduction throughout the age of the samurai. Armorers harnessed the protective powers of iron technology to formulate their own distinct type of armor. Examples of medieval samurai armor from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries illustrate the innovative construction that used hundreds of tiny scales (sane), which enabled superior flexibility and range of motion. Schools of armorers emerged, and the exhibition presents the work of several master armorers, providing an opportunity for side-by-side comparisons of some of the finest ironwork produced for the samurai.

Following further evolution of Japanese armor, the exhibition looks at how the introduction of firearms in the sixteenth century influenced armor fabrication. The country was in the midst of large-scale civil warfare and, in response to the new weapons, larger, more solid plates of iron had to be incorporated into the armor to protect warriors from bullets. Several components in Iron Men were bullet tested (tameshi teppo) to prove that the iron structure was strong enough to take the impact. Later, during the Edo period (1615–1868), to accommodate the changing roles of the samurai, another innovative style of armor emerged that was created with chainmail and smaller plates of iron. In this section, visitors will learn how this streamlined armor was built for ease of wear, transport, and storage.

The final sections of the exhibition show additional works from the Edo period, a time of relative peace in Japan that occurred under the unification imposed by the Tokugawa family. No longer embroiled in constant warfare, the need for battle armor decreased, and armorers had the opportunity to elevate their craft to new heights. Sumptuous creations gleam with fine metal details and decorative fittings. Sculptural iron helmets and masks were molded into fantastic three-dimensional shapes of creatures and deities. Objects of this caliber were greatly important during the many ceremonies and processions where the daimyo used the armor to demonstrate their wealth and status. Though the armor grew in beauty and refinement, the armorers to the samurai were mindful that conflict could arise again at any time. Balance had to be maintained between the elegance of their craft and the responsibility they burdened to protect the fates of their clients.

◊   ◊   ◊   ◊   ◊

The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection presents armor that once protected and adorned these fierce warriors. Established in Dallas’s Harwood District in 2012, The Samurai Collection is the only museum of its kind in the U.S. and is now one of the largest in the world. Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller began acquiring art of the samurai over thirty years ago. The family has selectively built the collection with an intense focus on artistic detail and sculptural quality. The objects, which range in date from the fifth to nineteenth century, are presented in a variety of rotating exhibitions—each exploring an intriguing aspect of Japanese warrior culture. Additionally, a large exhibition of the samurai armor is currently touring through the U.S., Canada, South America, and Europe. Its upcoming exhibition at Bernisches Historisches Museum will debut 4 November 2021. The Samurai Collection is housed in the historic St. Ann’s School building, originally constructed in 1927.

Exhibition | Samurai: Armor from the Barbier-Mueller Collection

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on July 24, 2021

Touring since 2011 when it opened in Paris, the exhibition opens this November in Bern—its twelfth venue. Writing about the collection in 2017 for Apollo, Susan Moore noted that it then had been seen by 1.3million visitors.

Samurai: Armor from The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection
Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, 8 November 2011 — 29 January 2012
Musée de la civilisation, Québec City, 4 April 2012 — 17 February 2013
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 14 April — 4 August 2013
Portland Art Museum, 5 October 2013 — 12 January 2014
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 16 February — 17 August 2014
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 19 October 2014 — 1 February 2015
Centro Cultural La Moneda, Santiago, 13 October 2015 — 8 February 2016
Denver Art Museum, 6 March — 5 June 2016
Phoenix Art Museum, 1 March — 16 July 2017
Bellagio Gallery of Fine Arts, Las Vegas, 3 November 2017 — 29 April 2018
Kunsthalle München, Munich, 1 February — 30 June 2019
Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern, 4 November 2021 — 5 June 2022

Visitors are immersed in the multifaceted history and culture of the Japanese samurai. The exhibition presents spectacular armour, helmets, and masks from the renowned private collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, along with priceless weapons from the collection of the Bernisches Historisches Museum. In addition to the familiar figure of the mythical fighter, the samurai manifest themselves as civil servants and scholars whose aesthetics, philosophy, and values endure to the present day.

J. Gabriel-Mueller, ed., with essays by Morihiro Ogawa, John Stevenson, Sachiko Hori, Stephen Turnbull, John Anderson, Ian Bottomely, Thom Richardson, Gregory Irvine, and Eric Meulien, catalogue text by Bernard Fournier-Bourdier, Art of Armor: Samurai Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 360 pages, ISBN: 978-0300176360, $65.

This extraordinary publication presents, for the first time, the samurai armor collection of the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum in Dallas. The Barbier-Mueller has selectively amassed these pieces of armor over the past twenty-five years, ultimately forming one of the largest and most important collections of its kind in the world. It is composed of nearly three hundred objects, several of which are considered masterpieces, including suits of armor, helmets, masks, horse armor, and weaponry. The objects date from the 12th to the 19th century, with a particularly strong focus on Edo-period armor. Offering an exciting look into the world of the samurai warrior, the book begins with an introduction by Morihiro Ogawa. Essays by prominent scholars in the field highlight topics such as the phenomenon of the warrior in Japan, the development of the samurai helmet, castle architecture, women in samurai culture, and Japanese horse armor. The book’s final section consists of an extensive catalogue of objects, concentrating on 120 significant works in the collection. Lavishly illustrated in full color, each object is accompanied by an entry written by a scholar of Japanese armor.

L. John Anderson is an independent scholar and collector of samurai armor. Sachiko Hori is vice president of Sotheby’s Japanese Works of Art department in New York. Morihiro Ogawa is special consultant for Japanese arms and armor in the Department of Arms and Armor at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Thom Richardson is keeper of armour and Oriental collections at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. John Stevenson is lecturer on Japanese art and history at the University of Washington. Stephen Turnbull is visiting lecturer in South East Asian religious studies at the University of Leeds.


Notre Dame Launches New Online Access Platform

Posted in museums by Editor on July 24, 2021

Press release (21 July 2021) from the Snite Museum of Art:

The Hesburgh Libraries and the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame have launched Marble (Museum, Archives, Rare Books, and Libraries Exploration)—an online teaching and research platform designed to make distinctive cultural heritage collections from across the University accessible through a single portal.

The development of Marble was made possible, in part, by a three-and-one-half-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create an open-access, unified software solution that would enable universities to access museum and library holdings through a single online platform.

University libraries, archives, and museums nationwide have been digitizing collections for well over a decade and have long sought collaborative solutions that would enable their respective holdings to be easily discovered online and used for teaching and research. However, there have been many obstacles preventing efficient and expansive research across collections, including disparate technical systems, discipline-specific practices, and descriptive metadata norms. A cross-disciplinary team developed Marble to address this universal challenge and to help transform teaching and research at Notre Dame and other institutions facing similar needs.

“Thanks to the hard work of so many in the Hesburgh Libraries and Snite Museum of Art and the generosity of the Mellon Foundation, Notre Dame is transforming the way scholars on campus and around the world further knowledge and advance research,” said Marie Lynn Miranda, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost. “It’s a wonderful privilege for Notre Dame to play a role in preserving these important cultural heritage collections and in making those collections easier to access, explore, and investigate.”

The Snite Museum of Art, Rare Books & Special Collections, and the University Archives have historically been independent gateways for faculty and students to engage with research collections, historical information and cultural objects. Users could access the physical collections at different locations and some item descriptions online, but few resources have been made available as digital surrogates, let alone through a single web platform.

In this unified discovery space, users now have open access to a selection of digitized cultural heritage collections that were once inaccessible. While these digitized materials are only a fraction of the University’s holdings, cross-institutional teams will collaborate to add new items regularly.

“The museum is grateful to be a part of this research partnership and the initial phase of the Marble project,” said Joseph Antenucci Becherer, director of the Snite Museum. “Offering the academy, and all users, access to our collections is deeply meaningful and useful in guiding the future of both research and teaching, not to mention pure enjoyment for even the more casual, curious user.”

“Marble offers key features that fundamentally transform the way digital collections can be used for teaching and research,” said Diane Parr Walker, the Edward H. Arnold University Librarian. “The museum and library collaboration and the grant outcomes will have a transformational impact on pedagogical access, scholarly engagement, and research outcomes at Notre Dame.”

Faculty, students, and the general public can browse Marble and download select digitized materials from the Snite Museum of Art, Rare Books & Special Collections, and the University Archives in a single platform—including books, manuscripts, sculptures, paintings, photographs, ephemera, and more. Each item displays one or more images with descriptive information and linked metadata to view related or similar items.

At the heart of Marble is an open-source image sharing standard called IIIF, or the International Image Interoperability Framework. IIIF is a set of universal specifications that provides a standardized way of storing and displaying images. One of the benefits of using IIIF images is that they can be viewed alongside other IIIF-compliant images from institutions around the world. IIIF viewing features include zoom, rotation, color manipulation, comparable viewing, and options for cross-institutional research.

The Portfolio tool turns members of the Notre Dame community into curators, allowing each person to create customized lists and collections of content. Users browse, search, and easily save items of interest into portfolios for future viewing. Portfolios are versatile—they can be shared for teaching, used for course assignments, or annotated for individual research. They can remain private for personal use or be shared with students, campus peers, or the public.

“Marble’s features are designed to facilitate primary resource discovery and streamline the research process. This platform allows for deep integration of the University’s cultural heritage holdings—regardless of where they reside,” said Mikala Narlock, digital collections strategy librarian. “We hope Marble will become an essential and indispensable platform for teaching and learning with digital collections at Notre Dame.”

The University of Notre Dame shares the Mellon Foundation’s commitment to advancing museum-library collaborations through freely available, scalable solutions.

The Marble software has been developed in the cloud, making it more scalable and less costly than software deployed on a local network infrastructure. It uses a harvest model to draw descriptive information from key source systems and features a shared administrative back-end to augment harvested data. This solution is possible due to a shared understanding of different descriptive terms.

In addition to a technical solution, the grant team facilitated critical social infrastructure conversations to optimize collection management and metadata workflows. The development roadmap will enable new features and continue to improve collaboration between libraries and museums.

The code for the Marble project was developed and will be maintained by the Hesburgh Libraries development team. The platform code is openly licensed under an Apache 2.0 license and available on GitHub. Project documentation, technical diagrams, collaborative processes, and best practices are published on the Open Science Framework.

Online access to these selections of distinctive cultural heritage materials at Notre Dame is free and open to the public. Visit marble.nd.edu often to see new materials and featured portfolios published throughout the year.

%d bloggers like this: