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AN ITALIAN HELMET BOWL ADAPTED IN NANBAN STYLE

MOMOYAMA PERIOD (CA. 1580)

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AN ITALIAN HELMET BOWL ADAPTED IN NANBAN STYLE
MOMOYAMA PERIOD (ca. 1580)
An Italian cabasset-type helmet with four panels etched and carved with Renaissance designs, the bowl of red and black-lacquered iron fittings to accommodate a Japanese neck guard and the plume holder to accommodate a Japanese maedate, the front peaked and embossed with eyebrows; rim of inome gilt

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Emma Winder
Emma Winder

Lot Essay

The Italian cabasset-type helmet was imported into Japan in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century when such Nanban ("southern barbarian," or foreign) pieces were fashionable among the high-ranking samurai. It is decorated with four panels etched and carved with Renaissance motifs and shows a man mounted on a stag about to trample a prostrate winged angel. The bowl has red and black lacquered-iron fittings to take a Japanese neck-guard, showing how in Japan such helmets were worn back-to-front so that the original brass Italian plume holder could serve as a Japanese maedate (forecrest) holder. The front part is made as a peak with embossed eyebrows. Two brackets have also been fitted at the sides to accommodate Japanese wakidate (side-crests). This helmet has, in addition, a gilt-rimmed inome ("boar's eye" piercing) at the back to accommodate a hair plume copying the European fashion.

A similar Nanban helmet exhibited in "Art of the Samurai: Japanese Arms and Armor, 1156--1868," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 21 October 2009--10 January 2010, was once owned by the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu and is lent by the Toshogu Shrine at Nikko, which is dedicated to him.
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