Height: 1.250 m (as mounted)
Asia JA OA+13545
Rooms 92-94: Japan
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Set of armour
Momoyama period, late 16th century (cuirass and sleeves; Edo period, 17th century (helmet), 18th-19th century (remainder)
This composite suit of Japanese armour brings together items from different periods.
The helmet, though made in the seventeenth century, is in the tradition of earlier pieces which were often given a hideous face-mask with bristling whiskers to strike terror into the enemy.
With the arrival of firearms in the sixteenth century new bullet-proof cuirasses were developed in Japan, copied from European models. The example here is signed by Unkai Mitsunao. This and the silk sleeves covered with chain-mail and iron plates were made in the late sixteenth century. The neck-piece, shoulder flaps, divided skirt and leg pieces are made of lacquered iron platelets held together with cords and colourful silk braids. They were made in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.
In the Edo period (1600-1868) armour was generally more ceremonial, and made of lighter metals. However, some provincial lords, especially the Date clan of Sendai, kept up the appearance of being always prepared for battle, possibly in memory of their ancestors' defeat by the Tokugawa clan under Ieyasu in the decisive battle of Seki ga Hara (AD 1600).
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
L. Smith and V. Harris, Japanese decorative arts from (London, The British Museum Press, 1982)