November 4, 2016–January 16, 2017
Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Riccardo Franci, curator of the armory at the Museo Sitbbert, discusses the history of the collection of Japanese arms and armor at the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy, currently on view at the Frist Center.
Nashville Public Television's Arts Break segment on Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Ramon Cisneros of Univision and La Campana discusses our exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Haruta school. Helmet (sō-fukurin kin makie akoda-nari kabuto), Japan, first half of the 17th century. Steel, gilded copper, lacquer, gold, wood, silk, and leather. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Helmet by Myōchin Fusamune. Suit of armor (akaito odoshi nimai-dō tosei gusoku), Japan, second quarter of the 16th century and first half of the 18th century. Steel, shakudō (gold and copper alloy), silver, gilded copper, ivory, horn, wood, silk, lacquer, and silk brocade. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Spectacular helmet (kaen-nari bachi harikake kawari kabuto), Japan, first half of the 17th century. Steel, wood, papier-mâché, lacquer, leather, horsehair, and silk. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Suit of armor (koi asagi odoshi kawatsuzumi-ishinui nimai-dō tosei gusoku), Japan, late 18th century–beginning of the 19th century. Steel, leather, lacquer, wood, horsehair, silk, and silk brocade. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Spectacular helmet (suigyu kumageue-nari kawari kabuto), Japan, beginning of the 19th century. Steel, gilded copper, leather, wood, horsehair, lacquer, and silk. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Foldable chair (kyokuroku), Japan, second half of the 17th century. Wood, gold, silver, gilded copper, leather, silk, silk brocade, and lacquer. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Sword (katana), Japan, end of 16th century–beginning of 17th century. Red oak, boxwood, rosewood, ebony, ivory, horn, tortoise, malachite, and mother-of-pearl. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Sadayasu and Masatomo. Saddle (kura), Japan, mid-17th century. Red oak, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, gold, hemp, and silk. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Smoking necessaire (tabakobon), Japan, late 19th century. Wood, lacquer, and silver. Collection of Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy
Samurai: The Way of the Warrior is a dramatic and historical exhibition that examines the traditions of this legendary warrior class whose political dominance affected Japanese art and culture for nearly seven hundred years. The exhibition is drawn from the rich holdings of the Museo Stibbert, a museum primarily devoted to arms and armor in Florence, Italy.
Featuring more than ninety elaborately ornamented functional and decorative objects created between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, this dynamic exhibition provides insight into the life of these warriors and investigates their moral, cultural, and aesthetic codes. “The Stibbert’s Japanese collection is considered one of the oldest, largest, and most important outside of Japan,” says Frist Center curator Katie Delmez. “In this exhibition, our visitors will have a rare opportunity to see firsthand the fine craftsmanship and remarkable creativity harnessed to make these utilitarian works of art.”
With a selection of nine full suits of armor, twelve expressive helmets (kabuto), and numerous decorated swords (katana) and sword fittings, along with a monumental sixty-foot handscroll, sumptuous standing screens, and lacquer wares, Samurai: The Way of the Warrior showcases the skill of medieval and early modern Japanese artisans. “While functional in its ability to protect the wearer, armor for the elite samurai was also very visually striking, intricately constructed with materials such as bearskin, buffalo horn, horsehair, ivory, lacquer, and silk,” says Delmez. “The armor was designed to express the individuality and power of the warrior and, when not in use, was often displayed in his home.”
Samurai, a term that roughly translates as “those who serve,” refers to the elite warriors who played an important role in Japanese politics and society from the late twelfth century until the mid-nineteenth century. Shōguns, or supreme military leaders, governed Japan as de facto rulers until 1867 when the military government was abolished and the emperor returned to power. The values emphasized by the samurai included loyalty, courage, honor, and personal cultivation. During prolonged periods of peacetime and stability, the samurai increased their attention to aristocratic pastimes such as poetry, music, and tea ceremonies. This exhibition includes luxurious objects such as lacquered calligraphy and smoking boxes, an incense tray, a mother-of-pearl inlayed processional riding saddle and stirrups, and a gilded folding chair that was part of a bridal trousseau for a member of the Tokugawa shōgunate clan.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the film series “Samurai and Cinema” will offer an eclectic selection of full-length influential Japanese samurai films. This program, representing a collaboration between the Frist Center, Belcourt Theatre, International Lens at Vanderbilt University, and Light + Sound Machine at Third Man Records, will offer screenings at four locations around Nashville.
As part of the Frist Center’s presentation of the exhibition, an education gallery will allow visitors to test their knowledge of samurai history at interactive electronic game stations.
The Frist App
Be sure and download the Frist app to access exclusive content for this exhibition, including the Samurai audio tour, “Fearsome Creatures” stories, and more. Click here to add it to your iOS smartphone or Android device.
The Frist app offers content beyond what’s seen on our gallery walls, including Seek & Find activities, glossaries, and behind-the-scenes extras. It is also a new way to access the custom audio tours we produce for many of our exhibitions, with directional cues, seamlessly delivered sound files, and supplemental images make for an intuitive touring experience. On your next visit to the Center, be sure to bring your headphones (or pick some up at Visitor Services) so you can listen while you look!
Other features—including maps, an event calendar, and short exhibition overviews—will help you plan your visit.
The objects in Samurai: The Way of the Warrior are drawn from the rich holdings of the Museo Stibbert, a museum primarily devoted to arms and armor in Florence, Italy. The Stibbert’s Japanese collection is considered one of the largest and most important outside of Japan.
This exhibition was organized by Contemporanea Progetti SRL with the Museo Stibbert, Florence, Italy.
The education gallery was organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in collaboration with Fivestone Studios.
Non-flash photography with hand-held cameras and cell phones is allowed in the Samurai exhibition.
This exhibition is sponsored in part by the Friends of Asian Art:
Judy and Joe Barker
Robert Herring, MD
The Consul-General of Japan and Mrs. Masami Kinefuchi
Nashville Motorcycle Repair
Hugh and Laura Queener
Drs. Robert and Nancy Wahl
Julie and Breck Walker
Belmont University and Ocean Way Recording Studios donated time and professional expertise to the production of the audio tour.
Location: Ingram Gallery