Samurai: Beyond the Sword is based on the traveling exhibition Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor, from the collection of the Clark Center for Japanese Art and Culture. Birgitta Augustin, DIA associate curator and acting department head of Arts of Asia & the Islamic World, along with consultant Masako Watanabe, curated Samurai: Beyond the Sword.
The exhibition offers an in-depth look at the samurai—shoguns (supreme military rulers), daimyo (regional lords) and soldiers—who sought balance between military and cultural pursuits. The exhibition explores artworks that project the image of the samurai not only as fierce warriors but also as patrons of the arts and sophisticated artists and scholars during the relatively peaceful Edo period (1603–1868).
Menacing suits of armor and meticulously crafted sword blades are evidence of the samurai’s military might, while exquisitely painted scenes of nature and finely crafted tea ceremony objects reveal their aesthetic ideals. Many objects used for battle are embellished with artistic, literary and spiritual symbols, illustrating the integration of samurai values.
Among the artworks are helmets, face masks, and paintings of legendary Buddhist and Chinese figures, as well as scenes of epic battles, shimmering Noh theatre costumes and illustrated classical literature on screen and scroll paintings. These and other objects reveal the principles of awareness and mindfulness that samurai pursued throughout their lives.
An array of programs are being offered to enhance the themes in the exhibition, including artist demonstrations of a Japanese tea ceremony, floral arranging, martial arts, kiting, bunraku-inspired puppets, performances on traditional Japanese instruments and films. Click here to see a schedule of programs.