Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

October 24, 2015 - January 03, 2016
Philip Henry Alston Jr., Boone and George-Ann Knox I, Rachel Cosby Conway, Alfred Heber Holbrook, Charles B. Presley Family and Lamar Dodd Galleries

Drawing from the rich and varied Japanese collection of the Stibbert Museum, in Florence, Italy, and organized by Contemporanea Progetti in collaboration with the Stibbert, this evocative exhibition features some 100 objects related to the legendary samurai warriors—full suits of armor, helmets, swords, sword-hilts and saddles but also objects intended for more personal use such as lacquered writing boxes, incense trays and foldable chairs that characterize the period in which Japan was ruled by the samurai military class. One horizontal scroll that depicts a procession measures nearly 60 feet long.

Curator Francesco Civita, who oversees the collection at the Stibbert, writes, “The Japanese sword can be considered a key to the study of the history, traditions, and customs of Japan. . . . Because of its various parts and fittings called kodogu in Japanese, which immortalize heroic figures, gods, mythological events, heraldic symbols, animals and objects of daily use, the sword is also an anthropological tool, providing information of considerable importance.” The exhibition includes about 20 swords as well as 20 separate sword guards, equally elaborately decorated.

Helmets feature adornments made to resemble Shinto spirits and demons, and full suits of armor are colorful and complex, with lacquer-accented metal plates and silk ribbons.

Frederick Stibbert (1838–1906) was one of the first European collectors of Japanese art, and donated his collection of Japanese armor and arms to the city of Florence. His villa was turned into a museum.

Samurai translates as “those who serve,” and their job was to protect wealthy landowners. Their code was known as bushido, or the way of the warrior, and focused on discipline, honor and loyalty. 

The samurai were highly involved in the Japanese government and rose to power in the 12th century as a military dictatorship known as the Shogunate. They would rule until Japan was opened to the outside world in the late 1850s.

To help fund this exhibition, donate through Georgia Funder.

Sponsored by: Dr. Meg Brya, Five Points Eye Care; Devereux and Dave Burch; Bill and Marya Free; Caroline M. Gilham; Japan Foundation New York; Lars Ljungdahl; Marilyn McNeely, The McNeely Foundation; Deborah and Dennis O'Kain; Mr. and Mrs. Edward W. Phares; Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher; Mr. Alan F. Rothschild, Jr. through the Fort Trustee Fund, Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley; TD Automotive Compressor Georgia, LLC; the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation and the Friends of the Georgia Museum of Art

Additional support: Teri Harris Anglin; Anonymous; the Beta Sigma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma; Mae and Louis Castenell; Jacob Crouch; Peter Dale; Kenny Garbee; Roberto and Elizabeth Goizueta; Deb Gowen; Meredith Greer; Dortha and Bruce Jacobson; Katherine C. Jones; Melinda B. Jones; Matthew and Mary Beth Justus; Margie and Cole Kelly; Mrs. Ramon D. Lantz; Sarah Elizabeth Mayo; Jana and Bill McGee; Nelle and Jim Shehane; Patricia G. Staub; Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Stortz; Alex Vazquez