Monday, November 5, 2007

Philadelphia ---- Museum of Art, Part IV

This is the last part of my visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There were so many parts of this museum which tempted us but time was a factor. We had already spent more than five hours there and had time for perhaps one more section. Arms and Armor was chosen by my son so that's where we headed.

The Museum catalogue says the following about the armory section of the museum which was established in 1977 with the bequest of a collection by Carl Otto von Kienbusch:

A remarkable selection of fine armor and arms intended for kings, princes, noblemen, and their armed retainers. The high quality of the armor for man and horse, swords, daggers, polearms, firearms, shields, crossbows, and equestrian equipment on view in these galleries draws attention to the luxury, diversity, and refinement of martial objects made by some of Europe's most accomplished armorers over many centuries.

I found it a very interesting section of the museum but I don't seem to have much detail about the individual pieces so the photos will have to stand alone for the most part. As a purveyor of facts and information about the places I visited I feel I have been derelict in my duty in this instance. I hope you enjoy the photos anyway.

Just five relatively small galleries hidden away at the top of the Great Stair Hall housed the arms and armor collection and this was the main large gallery.

As you can see there were two large horse and rider displays of armour in this gallery and the windows had especially interesting decoration. Many of the suits of armour displayed were for tournament jousting which had its own specific design needs. One of the things I noticed was how small some of the suits were, as if men were much smaller in former times, although one suit in the collection was 72 inches high so obviously its owner was tall. Of course they had to be very strong for a suit of armour weighed in the region of between 55 to 70 pounds.

A selection of crossbows
displayed as you see

This shield was quite heavily embossed with decoration

A selection of early firearms was attractively arranged in this case

I thought this helmet was a delight. A very worried looking male image adorns
the front. Don't you love his frown and the bags under his eyes?

A collection of rapiers from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries
was arranged in this display case

A closer view of the case above shows a very beautiful English presentation sword
from the late eighteenth century in its scabbard. It's the one with the
blue inlay in the handle. Click to see it more closely.

So ends my tour of this magnificent museum with Part I, Part II and Part III highlighted earlier. Without a doubt Philadelphia has a world class museum, both in its building and its collections and I can highly recommend it. Vale la pena, as the Italians say. It's worth the trouble.

Strange spacing problems. I'm afraid you'll have to live with them.


MedStudentWife said...

Another great blog :)

You are so good at keeping up with these multiparts... *sigh*.. I wish I was so good. I think I still have a couple of blogs owing from my trip in August.

Chrysalis Angel said...

My fireguy would love this place. What great photos. You could see the detailing in the shield and on the helmet so well.

Ellee said...

We have a great weapons and armoury section in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. How did people manage to walk in such heavy armour?

Gledwood said...

I lurve art too... if I were rich I should collect art, but only "at home with Jackie Collins" (see my celebrity blog) style... nothing too expensive; only stuff that's nice

Carver said...

Thanks for the tour. I also like the helmet. What an expression it has. I like the rapiers too. Although I only took fencing briefly in college, I enjoyed it. I wouldn't want to be at the end of those sharp points though. I think you did a good job getting pictures of so many different parts of the museum in this four part tour. Take care, Carver

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I like suits of armour on display.

Of course, they must have ben very heavy to wear. The commonest cause of death in the crusades was knights sinmply dropping off their horses in heat exhaustion.

jams o donnell said...

Wow that's and impressive selection of armour and old weapons.

Liz said...

I do love the helmet! It looks like me first thing in the morning! Some nasty bits of armory there.

And as you said, they must have been really strong to wear that armourt - and be able to fight as well!!

When is your birthday then?

Janice Thomson said...

I always wondered how men maneuvered in such heavy equipment. I have really enjoyed this tour Jmb. It is indeed a world class art museum as your wonderful photos have proven.
Maybe the helmet was designed this way to take away the opponent's attention - it would sure work for me :)

Tai said...

I DO love the worried face on the helmet.
What amazing work, I think. The details are so careful and particular.
Makes me wonder if he was made to look like someone in particular.

jmb said...

Some of these multipart things go on forever don't they? I still haven't finished my Japan posts!

Hi CA,
I think everyone would love this museum and this particular section. Great stuff.

Hi Ellee,
I have been to other armories but this was small and very well laid out. I can't help think of the poor horse with its own armour plus the knight and his armour.

Hi Gleds,
I can't imagine being rich enough to own art like this museum's collections so I'm quite happy to go see it there.

Hi Carver,
Glad you enjoyed the tour with me. The helmet was the best thing in the armory. It really tickled my fancy.

Hi Crushed,
There were some very fine suits in this collection. I can imagine that the heat was a problem in the East, along with the dysentery. Imagine that in a suit of armour!

Hi Jams,
A small collection in comparison with some I have seen but of excellent quality.

Hi Liz,
I'm sure you look better than this guy does, but I think someone had a great sense of humour.
November 8

Hi Janice,
Moving in these things is like doing permanent weight training. Then there's the shield and the huge sword and besides that you can't hardly see. Not much fun I'm sure.

Hi Tai,
The helmet is a real treasure, he doesn't exude confidence does he? I never thought about someone being a model.

Thanks to everyone for visiting and commenting.

Political Umpire said...

Superb pictures as ever JMB. A couple of points about the armour of the day:

All told it wouldn't exceed in weight what soldiers commonly carry today, and in one respect would have been easier as it would be distributed over the body rather than contained in a backpack. Secondly, it looks smaller when displayed just as armour, but when worn there would have been more gaps between them. Although I think people were in general smaller than they are today - this is obvious apart from anything else by the tiny staircases one finds in English castles. Having gone to the trouble of building a castle, it wouldn't have been much extra effort making a wider staircase which you would have thought essential during a siege etc.

That said, there's no doubt that armour was heavy and cumbersome compared with normal clothing. I have seen a fairly convincing documentary about the battle of Agincourt, where the French knights would have worn very intricate and heavy armour. It had rained not long before and the type of soil was very hard to walk on when wet. With armour on one's feet it would have been impossible. Conversely, with canvas or cloth shoes it would have been far easier as there would have been many air pockets around the foot. Thus the French would have been literally bogged down, whilst the English archers (chosen by Henry because they were cheap - he had after all had to pawn the crown jewels to undertake the campaign, and surviving treasury records show that you got two archers for the price of one knight) would have moved around freely. Hence the French were beaten by the longbowmen, but not specifically by the arrows. At the end Henry ordered them forward to slice the throats of the stricken Frenchmen. The programme couldn't resist a bit of modern political correctness in questioning whether this deliberate killing of defeated foes constituted a 'war crime'.

I can imagine what Henry would have said - and done - to anyone who offered that viewpoint at the time!

Anonymous said...

Makes you think doesn't it? I wonder how all those blades and stuff would go down in a modern inner city...

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Wow, I wouldn't have expected so much armour and swords from the middle ages in an American Museum. That helmet is very quaint. I wonder what the original intention was to render that face on it. Thanks for sharing.

King Tutanhigham said...

Love the firearms but the rapiers are pretty cool too.

Ellee said...

I've often wondered if those suits of armour were made to measure, or whether you bought them off the peg, so to speak.

jmb said...

Hi PU,
You always give me much more information than I ever give you. I hadn't thought about the gaps in the armour and you are right about the weight of today's backpacks. At least they are easy to put on and off.
Interesting about the Battle of Agincourt. Good luck for the English if not necessarily good management.

Hi Mutley,
I don't think the youth of today would be too handy with these large blades. Also a bit big to hide under the clothing.
I don't think I would liked to have been a knight myself.

There is a very fine collection of armour in New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well that I know of. The helmet was priceless in my mind.

Hi James,
I liked the firearms and rapiers too but you should have seen the broadswords. Unfortunately the photo was not good.

Hi Ellee,
I believe they were made to measure but of course being so expensive I'll bet some would use another's armour if they got hold of it and it vaguely fit.

Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Brilliant! We enjoyed the whole visit. That first suit of armour looks very interesting and I just love the helmet with the worried face on it - makes me wonder who wore it and was that his likeness? The shield is beautiful too. Well done as always, jmb.

ipanema said...

wow...what a great collection they have. i love those helmets and crossbows. thanks for sharing this.

jmb said...

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the museum along with me. I just loved the helmet and did wonder if it was a true likeness of its owner.

Hi Ipanema
This was a great museum and this section especially interesting.

Thanks for visiting and commenting