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Arms and Armor

Arms and Armor Centennial

Now on view, to mark the department's centennial, Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department features some fifty rare objects, books, manuscripts, and period photographs, celebrating Dean's multifaceted career. The exhibition surveys his work as a zoologist, a professor at Columbia University, and Curator of Fishes at the American Museum of Natural History, and then concentrates on his groundbreaking work as the Metropolitan Museum's first curator of Arms and Armor. To further mark this one hundredth anniversary, the department's permanent galleries have been refurbished with the addition of ten new display cases and approximately sixty additional objects. Improved lighting has been introduced throughout the galleries and approximately one thousand gallery labels have been replaced.

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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Armor galleries; the exhibition highlights about forty other acquisitions from this period that, for the most part, are unpublished and have never before been on display.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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The Devoted Collector: William H. Riggs and the Department of Arms and Armor

Aleksandr Gelfand, Former Intern, Museum Archives

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On Friday, May 9, 1913, the ship La France steamed into New York Harbor carrying William Henry Riggs, a wealthy American and lifelong collector of arms and armor. Riggs was returning from France to his native city for the first time in over forty years in order to donate his impressive collection to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accompanying Riggs was Bashford Dean, curator of the Metropolitan Museum's recently established Department of Arms and Armor and a well-known collector in his own right. Dean had spent close to a decade trying to persuade Riggs to give his collection to the Museum. Now, as a result of Dean's efforts, the Museum's new Arms and Armor department was set to acquire one of the greatest collections of its day.

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Marking the Arms and Armor Centennial

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

Posted: Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One hundred years ago, on October 28, 1912, the Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art officially created the Department of Arms and Armor. From relatively modest beginnings, the department rapidly developed into one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of its type in the world.

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Fellows Series: The Etched Decoration of German Renaissance Armor

Stefan Krause, 2010–2011 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Department of Arms and Armor

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2011

Armor made from steel plates that covered almost the entire body was developed around the late fourteenth century in Northern Italy, and spread north of the Alps soon after. Most early examples were plain, but by the middle of the fifteenth century armorers began to emboss surfaces with ridges and grooves and add gilt copper-alloy applications, transferring current tastes in civilian fashion to create sumptuous garments of steel. The turn of the sixteenth century saw the first elements of armor embellished with etching, a technique that dominated the decor until the end of armor as an art form, in the middle of the seventeenth century.

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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.