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The Portland Art Museum hosted the exhibition Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection in late 2013/early 2014. The exhibition looked at the samurai’s role in warfare and art in medieval Japan. The museum hosted several lectures during the exhibition, including:
Curriculum for the Samurai: Conflicted World of Medieval Japanese Warriors
Lecture by Yoshiaki Shimizu
Given on October 6, 2013
Throughout seven centuries of samurai rule in Japan, warriors were encouraged to cultivate civilian as well as martial skills. For the military elite, the mastery of literature and history, informed by Confucian ethics and Buddhist spirituality, were as important as prowess in the “Way of the Bow and Horse.” In this illustrated opening lecture for Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, Dr. Shimizu will consider how this cultural curriculum shaped the enduring, but also conflicted, legacy of the samurai ethos down to the modern world.
Dr. Shimizu is internationally renowned for his writings on Japanese Buddhist images and narrative hand scrolls, as well as Chinese and Japanese ink painting inspired by Zen (Chan) Buddhist imagination. In 1987, he curated the ground-breaking exhibition The Shaping of Daimyo Culture for the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Samurai in Myth, History, and Art
Lecture by Maribeth Graybill
Given on the December 8, 2013
What do we know about the samurai and how do we know it? Since at least the 11th century, warrior exploits have been the subject of moralizing histories, poignant dramas, and countless paintings and prints. But the literary and visual image of the samurai—so often an inspiration for modern films or manga—is far narrower than the image we can extract from historical accounts, and art works created by and for the bushi elite, especially during the Edo period (1615–1868), add an entirely new dimension to our understanding of samurai culture. Dr. Graybill, a specialist in Japanese art history, will examine contradictory images of the samurai drawing from works on view in the Barbier-Mueller exhibition and in the Museum’s Japanese galleries.
Japanese Armor from the Inside Out
Lecture by Thom Richardson
Given on October 27, 2013
Unlike the steel plate armor used by the knights of medieval Europe, Japanese armor, like that found throughout Asia, was constructed from small scales of iron or leather, tightly laced together. How effective was samurai armor as protection for the body in warfare? What factors influenced the evolution of Japanese armor during the centuries of samurai rule? As the Keeper of Armour and Oriental Collections at the Royal Armouries and author of numerous books on European and Islamic as well as Japanese armor, Thom Richardson will bring a global perspective to his discussion of the unique features of the armor in the Barbier-Mueller collection.