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Return of the Samurai

Art Gallery Of Greater Victoria
Victoria BC – Aug 6-Nov 14, 2010

Samurai Suit of Armour, Muromachi-Momoyama period

Samurai Suit of Armour, Muromachi-Momoyama period (late 16th/early 17th century) [Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria BC, Aug 6-Nov 14] Gift of Trevor Glen Absolon

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria is an avid collector of Samurai-related paraphernalia. Its holdings include prints, scroll paintings, suits of armour, helmets and swords, as well as artifacts that reveal the Samurai connection to the Noh theatre and tea ceremony traditions and to Zen Buddhism.

Samurai helmet (detail)

Samurai helmet (detail), [Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria BC, Aug 6-Nov 14]

Currently the gallery is staging Return of the Samurai, a new version of its popular 2003 exhibition, Samurai: The Warrior Class of Japan. The highlights of the show are five recently donated suits of amour and two helmets courtesy of collector Trevor Absolon, and an ancient sedan chair known as a palanquin, which carried the members of a shogun’s family.

Although they look heavy, the lightweight suits of armour were fashioned from hundreds of lacquered steel parts, leather scales and silk braids flexibly laced together and worn over rich brocade robes. The exhibit features a number of paintings and newly-acquired prints illustrating the life and times of the Samurai, including a painting attributed to the greatest Samurai general of all, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-98).

The Samurai were a brave and ferocious class of warriors in Japan who valued loyalty, sacrifice, honour and martial bravery. An extreme example of their code of honour can be found in the early18th-century legend of the 47 Ronin (Samurai), who avenged the death of their master even though the consequence was ritual suicide for every one of them. Several prints in the exhibit illustrate this tragic story.

Mia Johnson

 Mon, Oct 4, 2010