Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor

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  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_lethal-beauty_6_suit-of-armor

    Suit of armor with a pink rib-bone cuirass, 18th century. Iron, lacquer, boar fur and cord. Courtesy of Private Collection.

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_lethalbeauty_nanbando

    Nanbando armor of gusoku type with sashimono (detail), c. 1750. Russet iron, gold/silver inlay, lacquered wood, cord. Courtesy of Private Collection.

  • Exhib_slideshow_exhibition_lethalbeauty_kiyomitsu_dagger

    Kiyomitsu, Mounted armor piercing dagger, 16th century. Black lacquer, inlaid shell, and metal. Courtesy of Richard and Adoree Suran.

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June 06, 2013 - August 18, 2013
Honolulu Museum of Art


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Exhibition Overview

The warrior culture of samurai (literally "those who serve") is one of the most fascinating aspects of traditional Japan. Through sources such as James Clavell's 1975 novel Shōgun and the television series it inspired, and movies like the 1977 Star Wars, samurai were introduced to millions outside Japan, rapidly gaining a place of prominence in American popular culture. The spiritual beliefs, social practices and artistic aesthetics surrounding samurai have attained a universal status that is immediately familiar. Samurai have inspired everything from business strategies to video games.

At the same time, samurai have become increasingly separated from their original historical context, and often the general public is unaware of the extent to which their familiar cultural icons were influenced by traditional Japanese art. For example, how many people know that Darth Vader's helmet was inspired by a Japanese original? Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions on samurai ever created. The dramatic installation of high-quality art looks at the complex role of samurai and the "way of the warrior" within classical Japanese society.

Comprising approximately 63 works by more than 30 master craftsmen from the 13th to 20th centuries, Lethal Beauty features full suits of armor, helmets, warrior hats, face masks, long and short swords, daggers, rifles, and more. 

Lethal Beauty was curated by Dr. Andreas Marks, Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture, and tour organized by International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

This exhibition is supported by a grant from the Freeman Foundation.
Additional support provided by Jean E. Rolles, Island Insurance, and Donald W.Y. & Laura Goo.

Tour schedule:
Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, Feb 2-May 5, 2013; San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX, Sept 28, 2013-Jan 5, 2014; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, March 9-June 1, 2014; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL, June 28-Sept 20, 2014; and the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY, Oct 12, 2014-Jan 4, 2015.