23 December 2009

Praying mantis on 17th-century Japanese helmet

I thought the "Mr. Magoo" helmet was unusual, but this one with a golden praying mantis is extraordinary. It's part of a new acquisition by the museum at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
The armor came from a Japanese museum that acquired it in 1927 from a treasury that was part of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the family of warlords who ruled Japan from 1600 until 1868. It was made in the early 1600s in Kii Province, south of Kyoto, which was then headed by Tokugawa Yorinobu (1602-71), the 10th son of the dynasty's founder.

The intricate acorn-shaped helmet confirms the owner's wealth and status; it is made of 124 lance-shaped panels, where 28 to 62 panels were typical. A carved praying mantis covered in gold leaf rears above the wearer's forehead, adding a fierce but whimsical touch.
The suit of armor was auctioned by Christie's and purchased by the museum for a record-setting $602,500. Further details at the Star Tribune.

Photo credit: By Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune

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