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Phoenix Art Museum: Samurai Armor, Part 2

The next display case contained a ridged-bowl helmet from the 16th century. I really like the golden fern leaves and what appears to be the face of a bat. Together with the downward-pointing horns, the wearer would look pretty intimidating.

Here is a full-face mask of Agyo, one of two guardian figures found at the entrance to Buddhist temples. It reminds me of a Kabuki mask.

Next up is an elaborately shaped helmet inspired by headdresses of high-ranking Zen priests. The ornament on the front features the Sanskrit symbol of the Buddhist deity Fudo Myoo, a popular subject of worship among warriors and commoners alike. He is referenced as the "Imperturbable Bright King" and the wrathful form of the Cosmic Buddha.

This traditional helmet and half-mask dates to the 16th century. The helmet is distinguished by the bowl made of 62 plates and the sculpted figure of Fudo Myoo (as referenced in the previous photo). I love the mustache on the half-mask.

Next on display is a riveted helmet from the late 16th century/early 17th century. The figure is also a depiction of Fudo Myoo. In addition to the attributes described with the previous photos, he was also considered the protector of warriors and patron of swordsmen. He is standing on a rock in front of a wall of flames holding a noose and a sword (the latter has been lost).

This helmet and half mask dates to the early 17th century. The shape of the helmet was inspired by Mount Fuji with its eternal snow at the summit. The Sanskrit character in the midst of flames refers to Fudo Myoo (again) who is also called "The Unmovable One".

The next display is a frontal crest from the 18th century, which would be attached to a helmet. It represents the head of a mythical animal, part ferocious bird, part killer fish. It was constructed using the so-called dry lacquer technique, in which layers of lacquer are built up to create the shape.

Another helmet, this one from the 18th century and sporting "stag" horns. It looks to me like it would be awkward to wear in battle.

This figure is wearing armor of the Hotokedo type, dating to the early Edo period in the 17th century. This style of armor was popular from the late-16th century onward because it offered excellent protection against gunfire. This example was constructed using heavy iron plates which I suspect would have been quite cumbersome in battle. Love the mustache though.

During the Edo Period, higher ranking samurai were allowed to ride horses. The highest ranking warriors such as the daimyo (high-ranking lords) and shogun (military dictator) embellished their tack to reflect their rank. These were designed with both luxury and beauty in mind.

Next up is a cone-shaped helmet from the 17th century. The ornament in the front is most unusual, representing nine bamboo leaves that can spin in the wind. Barely visible in the back (not well lit) is a crescent moon trimmed in fur to add height and majesty to the warrior. The stylized cherry-blossom crest on the side flaps was used by several different clans.

Here is a mask designed for a horse. It supposedly protected the horse's head and cheeks but provided holes for the animal to see through. These were primarily used for military parades.

Last for today is a fully outfitted horse and samurai wearing armor of the Tachido type from the 19th century. The samurai's armor is of particularly high quality with individually articulated scale construction. Lacquer is used extensively to waterproof the saddle, iron stirrups and leather saddle pads.

This duo would have been extremely imposing when they showed up on the field of battle.

To be continued...

For those of you who live in the Phoenix area, this exhibit will be on display until July 16, 2017. There is a charge of $5.00 in addition to the regular admission. I thought it was well worth it.

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com