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Arms and Armor

Department of Arms and Armor

The principal goals of the Arms and Armor Department are to collect, preserve, research, publish, and exhibit distinguished examples representing the art of the armorer, swordsmith, and gunmaker. The focus of the collection is on works that show outstanding design and decoration, rather than those of purely military or technical interest. Unlike the great dynastic armories now preserved as museum collections in Vienna, Madrid, Dresden, Paris, London, and Stockholm, the Museum's collection is a modern one, formed through the activities and interests of curators, trustees, private collectors, and donors over the past 125 years. The collection comprises approximately fourteen thousand objects, of which more than five thousand are European, two thousand are from the Near East, and four thousand from the Far East. It is one of the most comprehensive and encyclopedic collections of its kind.

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The "Cutting Edge" of Fashion: Designs for the Decoration of Arms and Armor on Paper

Sasha Rossman, Visiting Research Scholar, Department of Drawings and Prints; and Femke Speelberg, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Thursday, April 16, 2015

In his 1583 book The Anatomie of Abuses, the English moralist Phillip Stubbes criticized the growing trend for wearing arms as a stylish accessory, condemning upstart fops who sported "swoords, daggers and rapiers guilte and reguilte, burnished, and costly engraven, with all things els that any noble of honorable, or worshipfull man doth, or may weare so as one cannot easily be discerned from the other." Stubbes's main concern lay in the fact that men of all classes gave in to the whims of fashion and started wearing decorated arms daily as pieces of jewelry, giving way to vanity and pride and simultaneously blurring the lines of social standing.

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Guns, Paper, and Stains: Preserving History through Interdepartmental Collaboration

Angela Campbell, Assistant Conservator, Department of Paper Conservation

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2015

Included in the Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 2003–2014 exhibition, curated by Donald J. La Rocca and currently on display in the galleries of the Department of Arms and Armor though December 6, are several printed designs associated with ornamental firearms. Upon acquisition, two of these prints—the decorative title page from the album Plusieurs Piéces et Ornements Darquebuzerie, acquired in 2011, and a design for the stock of a musket from the Nouveaux Desseins D'Arquebuseries De Lacollombe, acquired in 2013—appeared similarly stained and damaged, but underwent distinctly different conservation campaigns. The two prints, as well as all of the other works on paper currently on display, will be on view through March 2015, due to their preservation needs.

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Shaffron and Sultanate: Horse Armor for Indo-Islamic Royalty

Rachel Parikh, Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Department of Arms and Armor's current exhibition, Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 2003–2014 (through December 6), not only features notable European works, but also highlights superior non-Western ones. For example, there is a particular piece of armor associated with Indo-Islamic royalty. It was not made for an emperor, however, but for a horse.

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The Sword Awarded to Revolutionary War Hero Colonel Marinus Willett

Betsy Kornhauser, Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture, The American Wing

Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The current exhibition Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 2003–2014 features a magnificent and historically important sword that was presented to the Revolutionary War hero Colonel Marinus Willett (1740–1830). In about 1791, American artist Ralph Earl (1751–1801) painted a full-length portrait of Willett (currently hanging in gallery 753 in The American Wing) that commemorates his extraordinary service during the War. Earl made a point of including a detailed rendition of the sword, which is shown hanging from Willett's waist.

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A First Look at Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions 2003–2014

Donald J. La Rocca, Curator, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Monday, November 10, 2014

In the exhibition Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 2003–2014, on view from November 11, 2014, through December 6, 2015, the Department of Arms and Armor is reflecting on its recent growth and development. Between 2003 and 2014, about three hundred objects were added to the collection, many of which have been put on permanent display in the Arms and Armor galleries; the exhibition highlights about forty other acquisitions from this period that, for the most part, are unpublished and have never before been on display.

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Bashford Dean and Helmet Design During World War I

Donald J. La Rocca, Curator, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The industrialization and mechanization of war in the early twentieth century—which meant an increased use of artillery, tanks, and machine guns, and the advent of trench warfare—resulted in an unprecedented number of killed and wounded soldiers right from the outset of World War I in 1914. The large number of head wounds suffered by combatants soon made it apparent that metal helmets, though long out of use, were absolutely necessary on the modern battlefield and that other forms of armor also should be explored. Shortly after the United States entered the war in 1917, the government turned to Dr. Bashford Dean, curator of arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum, to address the situation.

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Bashford Dean and the Arms and Armor Collection of William H. Riggs

Donald J. La Rocca, Curator, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2014

The current exhibition Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department features a number of pieces donated by William H. Riggs (1837–1924), a lifelong collector of arms and armor who assembled the finest private collection of his time before giving it to the Museum in 1913.

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Bashford Dean and Japanese Arms and Armor

Donald J. La Rocca, Curator, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Tuesday, April 8, 2014

During scientific research trips to Japan in the 1890s, Bashford Dean (1867–1928), founding curator of the Department of Arms and Armor, immersed himself in the study of Japanese arms and armor. By about 1900 he had assembled a private collection of approximately 125 pieces. When Dean lent his collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1903, it was the most comprehensive of its kind in the United States.

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A Look at the Life of Bashford Dean

Donald J. La Rocca, Curator, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In October 2012, the Department of Arms and Armor marked one hundred years as an independent curatorial department, an event celebrated in the current exhibition Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department. Through the closing of the exhibition on October 13, 2014, a series of monthly blog posts will look at different aspects of Bashford Dean's unique and multifaceted career as a scientist, soldier, curator, and collector.

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Syrian Art at the Met

Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The situation in Syria is both grave and deeply troubling. In the midst of such striking human suffering, all other concerns can easily get lost in the shadows. But we must believe that there will be a time when peace returns to Syria, and when that moment arrives, it would be tragic to find that most of the country's heritage had been lost.

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Now at the Met offers in-depth articles and multimedia features about the Museum's current exhibitions, events, research, announcements, behind-the-scenes activities, and more.