Legendary Samurai

Sep 14, 2013 – Jan 12, 2014

During the age of samurai rule, most Japanese would rarely, if ever, encounter a high-ranking warrior—the sort of commander who would commission extravagant suits of armor such as those seen in Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection. But despite the enormous gap in social status between the ordinary tailor, fishmonger, or farmer and the military aristocracy, the exploits of famous samurai were widely known from such sources as itinerant story tellers, Noh and Kabuki drama, and the visual arts. From the 18th century onward, inexpensive prints and illustrated books made samurai history accessible to all.

Drawn from the Museum’s holdings and a local private collection, this special dossier presentation brings together 25 prints that vividly call to life the legendary warriors of the past. Not all images of derring-do on the battlefield, many of these prints are poignant portraits of the solitary soldier, contemplating his life on the night before combat or fleeing from defeat. Before the dawn of movies and television, prints both shaped and reflected the collective memory of the samurai.

In addition to the dossier presentation in the Brantley Gallery, the Japanese galleries will feature art works that cast light on samurai history and the roles of samurai as both artists and patrons.

Organized by the Portland Art Museum and curated by Maribeth Graybill, Ph.D., The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art.