Samurai


    • Wisdom King Fudo (Fudo Myo-o), Heian period (794–1185), 12th century
      Kyoto, Japan
      Joined-woodblock construction with pigments

      H. 63 4/5 in. (162 cm)
      The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975 (1975.268.163)

    • Armor (yoroi), Late Kamakura period (1185–1333), early 14th century
      Japanese
      Lacquered iron and leather, silk, stenciled leather, copper-gilt

      H. 37 1/2 in. (95.3 cm), Wt. 38 lb. 3 oz. (17.3 kg)
      Gift of Bashford Dean, 1914 (14.100.121)

    • Helmet (Zukinnari Kabuto), 16th century; Momoyama period
      Japanese
      Lacquered iron

      H. 16 1/8 in. (41 cm)
      Bequest of George C. Stone, 1935 (36.25.81)

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    The military elite dominated Japanese politics, economics, and social policies between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries. Known as bushi or samurai, these warriors, who first appear in historical records of the tenth century, rose to power initially through their martial prowess—in particular, they were expert in archery, swordsmanship, and horseback riding. The demands of the battlefield inspired these men to value the virtues of bravery and loyalty and to be keenly aware of the fragility of life. Yet, mastery of the arts of war was by no means sufficient. To achieve and maintain their wealth and position, the samurai also needed political, financial, and cultural acumen.


    Mastery of the arts of war was by no means sufficient. To achieve and maintain their wealth and position, the samurai also needed political, financial, and cultural acumen.

    Related

    Timelines (2)

    • Japan, 1000–1400 A.D.
    • Japan, 1400–1600 A.D.

    Thematic Essays (20)

    • Art of the Edo Period (1615–1868 a.d.)
    • Art of the Pleasure Quarters and the Ukiyo–e Style
    • The Decoration of Arms and Armor
    • The Japanese Blade: Technology and Manufacture
    • Japanese Incense
    • Japanese Weddings in the Edo Period (1615–1868)
    • Kamakura and Nanbokucho Periods (1185–1392)
    • The Kano School of Painting
    • Lacquerware of East Asia
    • List of Rulers of Japan
    • Momoyama Period (1573–1615)
    • Muromachi Period (1392–1573)
    • Netsuke: From Fashion Fobs to Coveted Collectibles
    • Noh Costume
    • Painting Formats in East Asian Art
    • Rinpa Painting Style
    • Shinto
    • Shoguns and Art
    • Techniques of Decoration on Arms and Armor
    • Zen Buddhism

    Maps (1)

    • World, 1400–1600 a.d.

    Index Terms (12)

    Geography/Place

    • Japan

    Material and Technique

    • Gilt Copper

    Object

    • Body Armor
    • Buddhist Arms and Armor
    • Buddhist Sculpture in the Round
    • Helmet
    • Rainbow

    Subject Matter/Theme

    • Buddhism
    • Military in East Asia
    • Samurai
    • Warfare
    • Warrior

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    In contrast with the brutality of their profession, many leaders of the military government became highly cultivated individuals. Some were devoted patrons of Buddhism, especially of the Zen and Jodo schools. Several were known as accomplished poets, and others as talented calligraphers. During the Muromachi period (1392–1573), a number of shoguns exerted a profound cultural influence by amassing impressive collections of painting, enthusiastically supporting No and Kyogen theater, and sponsoring the construction of beautiful temples and gardens in Kyoto. Powerful warriors of the succeeding Momoyama era (1573–1615) inherited this repertoire of interests and added to it a love of grandeur and splendor. The massive walls, vast audience chambers, and soaring keeps of their great castles became the central symbols of the age. Glittering with the abundant use of gold and dynamic in design, the paintings of this period exuded power and monumentality. On a more intimate scale, the development of the tea ceremony was closely intertwined with samurai culture in the late medieval period. During the Edo period (1615–1868), the cult of the warrior, bushido, became formalized and an idealized code of behavior, focusing on fidelity to one's lord and honor, developed. The samurai of this period inherited the traditional aesthetics and practices of their predecessors and, therefore, continued the seemingly paradoxical relationship between the cultivation of bu and bun—the arts of war and of culture—that characterized Japan's great warriors.


    Source: Samurai | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art