“Samurai: Inside the Armor” is the exciting new exhibition on view now through summer 2016 at The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection

As its title implies, the exhibition presents a challenge to curious visitors of the collection – look past the surface of samurai armor to gain a new perspective and deeper understanding of this advanced art form. Helmets, masks, and suits of samurai armor feature intricate, beautiful, and creative exteriors to the naked eye. 

A monitor showing an X-ray of the top of a sixty-three plate helmet bowl.

A monitor showing an X-ray of the top of a sixty-three plate helmet bowl.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive and stately examples are kawari kabuto, elaborately-shaped helmets that emerged during the second half of the sixteenth century. Often adorned with crests called tatemono and other types of symbolic decorations, kabuto allowed samurai warriors to convey more pronounced individuality. But, what lies beneath in the interiors of such ornate pieces? Were a myriad of materials used? What was the construction technique like? 

With the meticulous expertise of Dallas’ Brookhaven College of Radiologic Sciences Program, these questions are answered in “Inside the Armor.”  The exhibition takes a closer look at Japanese armor by making special use of x-rays taken at Brookhaven College to reveal the hidden secrets behind the construction of these masterpieces. 

X-ray image of kawari kabuto (elaborately-shaped helmet) in the shape of nami gashira (crashing wave), Momoyama period, 1573-1615.

X-ray image of kawari kabuto (elaborately-shaped helmet) in the shape of nami gashira (crashing wave), Momoyama period, 1573-1615.

The images uncover fascinating new information about the composition of armor that ranges from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) to the Edo period (1615-1868). X-ray images show the varying densities of the materials within each piece, consequently offering new insights about the concealed skill and ingenuity of the armorers. As history confirms, it was this quality and craftsmanship of the interior that ultimately meant the difference between life and death for the noble warrior. The Samurai Collection, the permanent home of the armor, is located in the HARWOOD District of Dallas, Texas. 

A collective global audience of 1.25 million people from eight major cities have viewed objects from the collection in the traveling exhibition, “SAMURAI: Japanese Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection.” This major showcase of 140 samurai pieces made its most recent impressive and careful jaunt from the Centro Cultural Palacio de La Moneda in Santiago, Chile, to the Denver Art Museum. 

The Samurai Collection would like to extend sincere thanks to the staff of Brookhaven College of Radiologic Sciences Program. Their generous and extensive assistance made “Samurai: Inside the Armor” possible.

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