Text courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

Photos by Brad Flowers 

Myōchin Munenori, nimaitachidō tōsei gusoku (armor) (detail), mid Edo period, 18th century.Myōchin Yoshimichi, hachi (helmet bowl), Muromachi period, c. 1400.Iron, shakudō, lacing, silver, wood, gold, brocade, fur, bronze, brass, leather. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-MuellerMuseum, Dallas.

The traveling exhibition, Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, takes visitors on a journey back in time to discover the history, culture, and pageantry of the revered and feared Japanese samurai warriors. The exhibition features more than 140 objects of warrior regalia, from full suits of armor, helmets and face guards, to weapons, horse trappings and other battle gear.

Each object represents the evolution of the distinctive appearance and equipment of the samurai through the centuries, exploring the legends and history through objects of consummate craftsmanship and exquisite design. It is the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind outside of Japan.

“We are excited to present to our community this remarkable collection of samurai regalia from The Ann &Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum in Texas,” says Amada Cruz, Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view objects of such exquisite craftsmanship and historical importance from samurai culture, enabling us to bring a taste of the wider world to our diverse communities.”

Myōchin Ki no Munenaga, sōmen (full-face mask), Edo period, 1710. Iron. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-MuellerMuseum, Dallas.
Sadao, sujibachi kabuto (ridged helmet) and menpō (half mask), late Muromachi (helmet) to Momoyama period (mask), late 16th century. Iron, copper, shakudō, gold, lacing, wood, leather, horsehair. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas.
During the centuries covered by the exhibition, warfare evolved from combat between small ragtag bands of equestrian archers to the clash of vast armies of infantry and cavalry equipped with swords, spears, and matchlock guns. Arms and armor were needed in unprecedented quantities, and craftsmen responded with an astonishingly varied array of armor that was both functional and visually spectacular, a celebration of the warrior’s prowess.
Unknown, jinbaori (surcoat), mid Edo period, 18th century. Wool, silk, brocade. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-MuellerMuseum, DallasPhoto.
Dr. Janet Baker, the Museum’s curator of Asian art, emphasized the exhibition’s wide-ranging appeal. “Visitors with a variety of interests, from military history to Japanese culture, will find something compelling in these objects.” She cited the unique opportunity for Museum visitors to deepen their understanding of a historical culture whose presence lives on in the popular imagination. Samurai regalia and culture is known to have influenced many elements of modern popular culture, from anime to Star Wars. 
Unknown, eboshi kabuto (eboshi-shaped helmet) and menpō (half mask), late Muromachi to Momoyama period, late16th century. Iron, gold lacquer, bronze, horn, horsehair. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas.
“This exhibition allows us to explore the lives of historical figures who still fascinate us but whom we may not fully understand, whose way of life and approach to the world encompassed far more than responsibilities on the battlefield,” shares Baker. “ To experience these objects in person is to broaden not only our knowledge of history, but of our cultural present and its perspective on the past.”

Samurai: Armor from The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection 

Phoenix Art Museum

March 1 – July 16