Video: The Allure of Collecting Arms and Armor


From dynastic armories and curiosity cabinets to Gothic Revival castles, private collections, and modern museums, armor and weapons have been methodically collected, studied, and preserved for their artistic and historical importance, beginning in the sixteenth century and continuing to the present day. This lecture  surveys that legacy, particularly as it relates to the genesis of the major collections of arms and armor in leading European and American museums today, concluding with the growth and development of the Department of Arms and Armor in the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the past century.

See the related past exhibition: Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures

Donald J. LaRocca, Curator, Department of Arms and Armor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Recorded 3/26/15


The Allure of Collecting Arms and Armor

[00:00:05.13] I'm very pleased to introduce Donald LaRocca, Curator of the Department of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He's been managing the Met's collections of arms and armor for almost three decades, and he recently served as a consultant for our recent and current exhibit, "Arts of War, Artistry, and Weapons Across Cultures," and he was a tremendous help in helping put that exhibit together, and I thank him personally as well as institutionally for that great service to us. We really appreciate it.

[00:00:35.89] He received his BA cum laude from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his MA summa cum laude from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1988. Don began his museum career as a volunteer in the metalworks department of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and an intern at the Royal Armories in the Tower of London. Wow. He was a national endowment for the arts, intern in the costume and textiles department of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1980 to 1981 before joining the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1982. In Philadelphia, from '82 to '88, he was the assistant curator of the C.O. von Kienbusch Collection of Arms and Armor in the department of Medieval and Renaissance Decorative Arts. In 1988, he joined the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he is Curator of the department of Arms and Armor.

[00:01:30.77] This department was established by the Met in 1912, and today it is one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of its type in the world. Don's the author of more than 35 scholarly articles, essays, and catalogs, on wide ranging aspects of the arms and armor. Chief among these is Warriors of the Himalayas-- or Himalayas-- Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, the catalog of an international exhibition held at the Met in 2006. He was presented with the medal for services to the study of arms and armor by the Arms and Armour Society of London in 2007, and the Justus Lipsius Award-- say that 10 times fast-- by the International Committee of Museums and Collections of Arts and Military History in 2008. He's also authored multiple Met publications, including the Academy of the Sword: Illustrated Fencing Books, 1500-1800, and The Gods of War: Sacred Imagery in the Declaration of Arms and Armor.

[00:02:29.24] So that's all the official things I was told to say. I'd like to say something personally now. My first love, before the Moche of Peru or any of the exotic cultures of the new world, was knights. When I was a kid in New York City from about as soon as I could walk until I had to leave for college, my sanctum sanctorum was the Arms and Armor gallery at the Met. And I recall one of my fondest memories as a child was my dad taking me to the Met from being a little guy to a bigger guy. That was where I always went. I just loved arms and armor, knights and armor. It was my thing. And I still have that. When I think about I just-- I'm a kid again. So for me, if I may sink to the vernacular, how cool is this that I get to introduce the curator of one of my favorite spaces in the world? Please welcome Donald LaRocca.

[00:03:33.30] [APPLAUSE]

[00:03:43.91] Thank you Jane, thank you Jeff. That was great. I should just retire now after all of that. And I share your experience. One of my earliest memories is going to the Arms and Armor department at the Met as a boy of probably six years old. You should have become a curator of arms and armor as well. We need more people in the field.

[00:04:05.12] Thank you. Thanks, ladies and gentlemen, everyone for coming out and braving the weather to hear this talk. I'd like to begin by way of a bit of a preamble by making some comments on the image that we're looking at here, which in some ways encapsulates the theme that we'll be talking about tonight, the allure of collecting arms and armor. This is a detail from a painting by the Spanish artist Jose Villegas painted in Madrid in 1870. One of the things that intrigues me about it is that in 1870, there were a number of major private collections of armor and weapons throughout Europe, and even beginning in the United States at that time. It was very well known as a past time, as a passion, and there were a number of important national collections.

[00:04:56.98] But Villegas chose to set this painting-- rather than in contemporary mode, which he could have easily done, he set it about a century earlier. So the gentlemen are depicted in the dress of rounded to about a century earlier, 1770s up to the early 19th century. And they are contemplating studying, looking carefully at very well depicted, very carefully rendered group of objects, armor and weapons, from the late 16th to the early 17th century.

[00:05:34.01] So the image looks back and looks back again, but in a way it looks forward, because you and I could have had this same experience in any number of antique shops or dealers shops, probably in Boston. I certainly know in New York, up until about 1990, there were still a few shops that specialized in historical armor and weapons. And when I was a new curator at the Met-- I'd been there only two years-- one of the armorers who had worked there doing conservation and restoration for many decades, Robert Carroll, took me and said, let's go to the shop. Robert Brooker is going to close. He's the last antique dealer in New York that still sells arms and armor. And we went, and it was an experience something like this. You could go in, handle the things, study them. So that went from, I would say, 1990 back to this period in the 1870s, back to the end of the 18th century in quite a continuum that in some ways this represents.

[00:06:37.97] Also for me, these individuals show the different ways that any collector who's interested can contemplate the things that they want to study or that they want to acquire. And it doesn't have to be arms and armor. This could apply to baseball cards, to blue and white porcelain, to cubist art. You want to engage with the objects. You want to look at them, you want to study them, you want to get to know them in a certain way.

[00:07:05.34] And the gentleman on the far left has a much more reserved approach. Perhaps he's interested, perhaps he's not interested. This may be something that you have done or I have done when you're in an antique shop or a high end gallery or at a flea market. You're very interested in an object, but you don't want the dealer to know, so you pretend not to be interested. And that's what I think he's doing. He's remaining aloof and he's probably thinking, I'd pay $1,000, but I'll offer him $500 and see what he says.

[00:07:35.07] The other gentleman seated on the right is engaged in the way that I think we should all engage with the objects. He's completely absorbed with them, in them. He's allowing them to absorb him, he's absorbing them, handling them, studying them. This is the same way that we would examine a sword today. He's holding the hilt in his right hand, he's cradling the blade in his left hand to avoid probably cutting himself and also not to handle it, and he has a cloth across his lap because maybe it's been oiled or greased.

[00:08:06.81] So the artist, although he set this up as a history painting, was observing people who were we doing this, probably as a past time, using real objects from a private collection or an armory in Madrid, or perhaps in the position of an antiquarian. What I also love as that he has all these other pieces around him at his feet. These are the things he's already looked at or he's going to look at next, and this is the sign of a real collector in any subject or any topic.

[00:08:38.34] This painting, it's on display right now. It's at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, painted in 1870, acquired in 1887. It probably has not been on display for decades and decades. And the only reason I even know that it exists is because last summer a colleague of mine of all of ours at the Met, Walter Liedtke, who died tragically in a train crash early last month-- great specialist in Dutch paintings-- called me and said, we have a painting that has some weapons in it, and we were wondering if they're real, if they're accurate. Could you look at it? And he was working with a graduate student or someone, a fellow, a research fellow, I think, who was studying the painting.

[00:09:20.08] They considered it a very minor work, and if I passed it in a gallery somewhere-- it's quite small in scale-- and if I had passed it in a gallery, I might not have noticed it or looked too carefully at it myself. Because he asked me to look at it, I had a chance to study it in some depth, I became very entranced at all the artist has actually put into it, and how much he's shown about the nature of collecting, the nature of antiquarianism, the nature of historicism encapsulated in this one minor work. It'll be on display in conjunction with an exhibition we have relating to acquisitions we've made over the last 10 years. And after December it will probably go into storage and not be seen again for many decades. So you can see it in the images now, but seeing the real thing is better. So if you come to New York, please seek it out.

[00:10:12.25] The things that people are collecting, the arms and armor that we find in the great collections in Europe and the United States, where did it come from? Well, it's made for someone. So it's a matter of patronage. Why things were made, how they were used. Not a tactical sense, not in a militaristic sense necessarily, but who were the patrons for the great examples of arms and armor?

[00:10:36.82] And from our point of view and for the purposes of this talk, it's good to start with the Emperor Maximilian. Maximilian I is a good starting point for many things dealing with 16th century Europe. You seem him here in all his glory in a wonderful woodcut by Hans Birkmire dated 1508, showing Maximilian as the Holy Roman Emperor in an imperial guise in a type of portrayal that was revived from classical antiquity. He was a great patron of many arts and of literature, and particularly of the art of the armorer. He patronized armor makers in the Netherlands where he had dynastic holdings in the city of Augsburg in particular, and he founded a court workshop in Innsbruck.

[00:11:23.51] And from those different armories he had many personal armors made for battle and for tournament, many more than any one person would necessarily need, we would think today. But at this time the leading noblemen would typically have more than one armor, and the highest ranking noblemen, the kings and princes and dukes and so on, could have several for different types of battle, different types of tournament, and sometimes for purely ceremonial events.

[00:11:53.01] On the left you see a view of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the armory at the Art History Museum in Vienna. The great dynastic collections and the great museums today coincide with the seeds of some of the great dynasties of the past. So the German branch of the Hapsburg empire, you find most of the arms and armor at the Art History Museum in Vienna, as with the Spanish branch, the armory founded by Charles V and his heirs, you find in the Royal Armoury in Madrid. Similarly, the Livrustkammaren or the Royal Armoury in Stockholm is based on the army of the kings of Sweden. The Musee de l'Armee Paris, the Army Museum, its nucleus is actually the armories of the kings of France.

[00:12:40.84] So if, Jeff, you become an arms and armor scholar, these are the cities you'd get to go to do your research. It's not exactly hardship work. You go to Vienna, Madrid, Paris, Stockholm. Dresden, tremendous collection based on the heritage of the dukes of Saxony. And those are the collections in Europe that collectors in the United States look to, sometimes acquired pieces from throughout the 19th century and into the 20th century, and we'll touch on that a little bit.

[00:13:14.07] The armors in the left, the one standing in the foreground is an armor that is now attributed to personal ownership of the Emperor Maximilian when he was a young man, when he was Duke of Austria. And on horseback behind him is the armor of his father Friedrich III. Charles V, you recognize a painting, the actual painting by Titian of Charles as he was armed and led cavalry at the Battle of Muhlberg in 1547. The actual painting is much bigger than even the slide. I think it's about 10 feet across. It was the first instance in the 16th century of a monumental equestrian portrait of this type showing Charles. This is after successful battle during the Reformation.

[00:14:07.03] We think that although he wants to be shown in martial splendor, it purposely is not an inclusion of the type of imagery that would show the defeat of his enemies and the triumph of Catholicism, because at this time he was working very hard to mend the breaches between Protestant Counter-Reformation and Reformation forces in Europe. So the image was to show him triumphant, but not necessarily to show the church triumphant over Catholicism triumphant.

[00:14:39.02] But it also showcased the armor that he wore at the time, which is still preserved in Madrid. And Charles, again, was a great patron of the armory's art. In addition to armors for field and tournament, he and other leading noblemen had armors that were for more ceremonial use, like this helmet on the right. This is a helmet made by a Milanese armor named Filippo Negroli, who was famous in the 16th century, immortalized even by Vasari, the only armor, I think, singled out by Vasari as a master of metalwork. And this is hand forged or hammered, not cast, and then mercury gilt with gold highlights to represent the head of a Roman emperor, but it's fully wearable.

[00:15:25.63] And the beautiful thing about armor and armor of this quality is that it does become kinetic sculpture. It is wearable art. And it shows you the individual much in the way they would have been seen by their contemporaries, and it is kind of unique in this way. So Charles inherits from his grandfather, Maximilian, in two of the major armories, Madrid and Vienna, which become models for collectors in the centuries following that.

[00:15:59.83] But the two individuals that we can single out when talking about collecting in more of a modern sense is the people making the armor, having the armor made and wearing it for various purposes, battle, tournament, ceremonial. You can think of it as collecting in a sense if they have 10, 15 armors that they wear all the time. But it's not collecting it in the sense of acquiring something not so you or yourself are using it, because you think it's important, either historically or as a work of art, or just as an object of desire.

[00:16:31.89] So on the right, the individual that we can trace forward-- we can trace from this kind of modest sense of collecting is the Archduke Ferdinand II, Duke of Austria. He was Charles V's nephew, and his father succeeded Charles and became the Emperor Ferdinand I. So you can all pass your quiz on Hapsburg dynastic succession.

[00:16:59.17] Ferdinand is wearing an armor called the eagle garniture which has small eagles, Austrian eagles, all throughout the decoration. The term armor garniture refers to sets of armor, so it's not just a single suit of armor. It is armor with matching exchange pieces. And this is one of the largest, most extensive garnitures ever made, and it exists still in Vienna. It includes three complete armors for man, one for cavalry that he's wearing now, one for like cavalry afoot, and one for a certain type of tournament fought on foot, and then multiple exchange pieces to adapt and make those armors wearable and unusable for different circumstances. He was given that armor by his father when he was 17. So if he didn't have the bug, he probably got it then.

[00:17:50.47] What he did later in life using is Hapsburg connections was too write to dynastic houses all over Europe, and even into Eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire, and asked for examples of the arms and equipment and the armor of the famous men of their generation and the generations proceeding. And he assembled what he referred to as his Heroes Armory and published an extensible, well illustrated catalog of it, which we can think of as the first museum catalog.

[00:18:21.92] I'm showing slide on the left to counterbalance this with what happens 300 years later. This is an image of Dr. Bashford Dean, who was the founding curator of the arms and armor department at the met. I'll talk about Dean later on. He owned the armor, so he could wear it. If it's yours, you can wear it. We don't go in the museum and dress up in the armor.

[00:18:46.02] [LAUGHTER]

[00:18:46.84] But Dean was a private collector, a major private collector at the time in addition to being a great scholar and building the Museum's collection. He was influential in bringing to the market and to different museums many of the major collections that had roots in the early 19th century, and then fostering a group of collectors that went on well into the 20th century and whose collections then became parts of major museums in the United States today. So we'll come back to Dean down the road, but they bookend each other in a sense when you're talking about collecting of arms and armor from the 16th century into the 20th and the 21st century.

[00:19:31.41] The image on the right is a page from Ferdinand II's book or catalog, the Heldenrustkammer. It was bilingual, German and Latin text. Large folio edition, The Armory of Heroes. And this is depicting the armor that was in the slide earlier opposite of the Emperor Maximilian, and you can see the detail of that armor on the left and get a sense of how beautiful it is just as an object. It's the pinnacle of armor of the late Gothic period in Germany, probably made in the 1480s or so. For years it was attributed to Maximilian's uncle, the Archduke Sigmund because it appears in Ferdinand's catalog as the armor of Sigmund.

[00:20:21.56] Each armor was shown in this kind of niche that you can see. And he displayed them this way in Ambras Castle in Austria, which is also a wonderful place to visit. When you're going to Vienna, why not go to Innsbruck, and Ambras is right outside of Innsbruck. The army's been reconstituted there. He displayed the armors in these carved niches, and then there was a facing page of text, and he also collected the portraits of the individuals. So it really is an early sense of kind of in depth cataloging. It was based on the fame of the individual and not necessarily the object itself, but many of the objects are intrinsically beautiful, as this armor is on the left.

[00:21:07.19] This armor is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it is an armor attributed to Archduke Ferdinand's father, Ferdinand I, Charles II's brother, who succeeded him as Holy Roman Empire emperor of the German territories, German Burgundian territories. It's wonderful iconography. As you can see, the details of the breast plate and the back plate on the right and the left, perfect for a Counter-Reformation monarch. Mary as the queen of Heaven on the breast plate, Saint Peter's and Paul on the back plate. And then in the center you might recognize the fire, steel, and briquette, and the ragged staffs, which are the symbols of Burgundy, which is another of their major territorial inheritances, and also part of the symbol of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

[00:21:58.30] This is not an armor that stayed in Madrid or stayed in Vienna or even went to Ambras. And how this armor kind of traveled through time is part of the story that we could talk about today. It was acquired by the Museum in the 1930s, and had been in since at least the last quarter of the 18th century in a Gothic revival armory Erbach Castle in Odenwald in Germany. And I'll show you a print of it from the middle of the 19th century.

[00:22:30.61] The Gothic revival, which takes root in England by the mid 18th century in Germany, by the mid to late 18th century in the United States, early in the 19th century if not sooner, gives real impetus to the collecting of arms and armor, both to furnish these Gothic revival structures, but also as part and parcel of the culture that people were looking back to with some reverence, and then later with real scholarly interest.

[00:23:00.99] This is a detail on the left of an 1832 illustrated guide to Erbach. The armor at the Met, you can see on the niche on the right hand of the slide on the left. And in this photograph from the 1920s, the early 1920s, you can see it's standing on the left. So this is Erbach as it survived from the late 18th century, with some modifications, through the 19th century, until some of the collection began to be sold off to private collectors and to some specialized dealers in the 1930s.

[00:23:35.76] Other major pieces that left Erbach, this complete horse armor, which is also in the center of the gallery at the Met now, made for Johann Ernst, the Duke of Saxony. It has his name across the front portion of the horse's armor and the date 1548, suggesting that it was made for the Diet of Augsburg, which is also called the geharnischter Reichstag, or the Armored Meeting of Counselors, in which Charles V ordered his nobles to assemble to discuss issues of religion and to try to settle the differences in the empire, and they attended in full armor. And it's thought that the armor for the horse was made for Johann Ernst, the Duke of Saxony, for his entrance into the city to attend this event.

[00:24:23.23] Complete horse armors from the 16th century are also incredibly rare. There are four on display at the Met. There's one on display in Philadelphia. Everything else in this country that you'll see are actually composite or restored. There are just very, very few that have survived. Through the period when armory went out of use and the metal was still valuable, things like big pieces of horse armor were actually being recycled. So to have a complete example is very, very unusual.

[00:24:54.28] Just to stay with Erbach a little bit more, the armor on the niche or on the pedestal, rather, on the left hand side and that on the right both attributed names of Italian nobleman. They're misattributions as they frequently are in Gothic and neo-Gothic armories. And you see the actual armor, or one shown on the far left, also appears in the slide in the right. This was an armor probably may for Quasimodo the III, a Medici grand duke. One of the few that can be identified as made in a workshop in Florence. Very, very rare.

[00:25:30.90] And that armor today is in the Detroit Institute of Art. And how it got to Detroit is an interesting story, because it got there through the collection of William Randolph Hearst. And rather than a grand palatial armory, what you're seeing on the left is Hearst's apartment in New York City in the 1920s, actually. This is the upper two floors of a building. If you're familiar with Manhattan at all, it's only the Upper West Side on Riverside Drive, kind of close to the Hudson River. And if you go by there still, it's in the 80s, I think. And you look up. And I've done this looking for it. There is still a double height top floor. Hearst bought the first two floors of the building, or occupied the first two floors, then built a double high gallery on top of it, and then got tired of the restrictions and bought the whole building and installed his armor collection there. You see a picture of him on the cover of Time magazine. It was about contemporary with that.

[00:26:30.47] Jumping ahead a little bit, what we're seeing in Hearst though is the continuation of a tradition that, particularly in Great Britain and in the United States, we can trace to this Gothic revival house, which you may recognize as Strawberry Hill. This is the summer house converted from a simple summer house into a kind of Gothic confection by Sir Horace Walpole, novelist, antiquarian, connoisseur, famous throughout the 18th century. They had the house, with several architects, converted to Gothic style, designing it as he went along, creating it as he went, between about 1750 and about 1780 or so. It was considered the most famous house in Great Britain at the time. Many guidebooks were written of it. It was vastly influential in terms of making the taste of the age and in promulgating the kind of message, proselytizing for the Gothic style and Gothic revival.

[00:27:40.97] Horace Walpole was not an arms and armor collector himself, but he felt that Strawberry Hill had to have an armory, of course. So on the right you see an image of his armory, which is more worked into the decoration as a whole as opposed to a large hall of knights. And the slide on the right, you can see on the left in this niche is this armor, this spear, and this horse's headpiece, which were all at Strawberry Hill at one time. The collection was dispersed by the 1820s. The Yale Center for British Art did an exhibition, great exhibition about Strawberry Hill about five years ago, and they brought back together as many of the pieces as possible.

[00:28:29.98] This armor had been thought to be lost for a long time, and my colleague at the Met and my former department head, Stuart Pyhrr, identified it as being in a collection in Eisenach in Germany where it had been all along. It had been since the early 19th century, since the dispersal of Horace Walpole's collection. But he was the one who actually tracked it down. They borrowed it from Germany for the exhibition. We lent the spear, a private collector lent the [INAUDIBLE], in order to reconstitute this one aspect of Horace Walpole's Gothic armory.

[00:29:06.56] It had permeated popular consciousness enough to the extent that by 1816, the date of this print, you can have a display such as this called the [INAUDIBLE], which I think is a word they made up loosely based on the Greek, in Bond Street in London, the title of it saying, "Being the foremost collection of ancient armor in Europe and open for public inspection." That was also all for sale as well.

[00:29:33.53] A lot of this was actually war booty from the Napoleonic wars. It was a great movement of armor and weapons as trophies during the Napoleonic period, unmatched actually until the Second World War when there was again a lot of looting of collections or trophy brigades were actually very well organized. It's thoroughly documented that the Russians and the Germans had trophy brigades and went in with list sometimes of objects to, as they considered maybe repatriate or take back. It was less organized in the Napoleonic era, but a lot of this material made it onto the art market and then made its way into many private collections of the period.

[00:30:19.42] Now this looks just like a scene I witness in the Harvard Museums today without the handheld devices. You know, the man is intently studying. He's leaning down. We hope he puts a forehead smudge on the glass. We love to see that because it shows people are really looking. The women are maybe equally enchanted, or maybe they're just being patient and waiting until they can go someplace else. But it shows what an event this was. It was a pastime for polite society, not only for private collectors, but also a way time could be passed and people could enjoy an exhibition of this type.

[00:30:58.52] The exhibition was full of anachronisms. The armor in the back of this view was called An Armor of-- I don't think it was called Richard the Lion Hearted, but it was called An Armor from the Crusades. And it's actually an Indo-Persian and Turkish armor probably from the 16th, 17th and 18th century, not an armor from the 12th or the 13th century. But at the time, there wasn't enough knowledge base for anybody looking at this material to really know the difference. So the people promoting exhibitions like this or exhibiting these pieces, they pretty much called them whatever they wanted.

[00:31:36.55] Another instance of that, and another sort of popular use of armor and weapons is this print by Rowlandson, Thomas Rowlandson, of the Horse Armoury, or the Line of Kings of the Tower of London. This was wonderfully popular with foreign travelers. There are great diary entries from people from America, from all over Europe, from Asia, visiting the horse armory and seeing the kings of England, from William the Conqueror up through-- well, at least William. Not Mary. It did not include her, unfortunately. But King William. William the Conqueror is holding a musket, of course, which didn't exist until 400 years or 500 years after his reign. And many of the armors-- it's just rife with an inaccuracies, which didn't really matter to them at the time.

[00:32:30.97] To show a detail of this, the two figures that are to the left of the line in two original sketches for the preparation of this print or another print like it that we have in the archives in my department. The figure to the left is supposed to represent Edward I who was a 13th century English king, and the figure to the right, Edward III who was a 14th century English king. And they're both wearing English armors of the 16th century. The one on the left is an armor made in the royal workshops in Greenwich in about 1575 for William Somerset. And the armor on the right is actually made for Henry VIII and is dated 1538. I think it is now proudly displayed at Windsor Castle.

[00:33:14.62] The person who worked hard to eliminate some of the anachronisms from this and to begin to put the study and the collecting of historical arms and armor on a more historical footing as the figure on the left, Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick. Meyrick built a large private collection, which you see a view of on the right. And at first it looks like it would be any other Gothic revival hall. But what Meyrick did was to begin to study the pieces and try to understand them by who originally on them, try to classify them in a typological way, try to understand them from an art historical perspective, and really determine when the pieces were made and where they were made.

[00:33:56.08] And he published a book in 1820 called A Critical Inquiry Into Ancient Armour. That was one of these landmark works that really made people sort of look and pay attention and think that there really was something to be known about this material. And then a catalog of his collection published in 1830 shows his approach. So it was no longer the Gothic hall with the name of Pietro Strozzi or [INAUDIBLE] or Albrecht von Brandenburg. He's trying to understand how the pieces function and discuss them in detail. It's full of accuracies, but in 1830 it was really well ahead of its time. It helped foster a whole new generation of private collectors in the 19th century.

[00:34:42.25] After Meyrick's death, his collection was inherited by a nephew, I believe. It was displayed at the South Kensington Museum, later the Victoria and Albert Museum. You see an illustration here from the Illustrated London News of 1869. And then it was sold at series of auctions, and many of the pieces went to the Wallace Collection in London, which if you haven't visited it and you're in London is a great place. It has a tremendous collection of arms and armor. It's like the Frick Collection, but with an armory.

[00:35:19.30] So we've looked at Germany and we've looked at England a bit. There were also collectors in Italy, and we'll just point out one collector in France. The image on the right is a drawing that is here in the Harvard Art Museums by the great French artist Ingres, and it shows the Count [INAUDIBLE]. For French history of the second empire period, he's a pivotal figure. He was a sculptor and then became a key adviser to Napoleon III, and eventually became Director of Museums for Napoleon III. He had a major collection of works of art and one of the largest collections of historical armor and weapons in Europe at the time. On the left is an architect view of his townhouse in Paris showing the layout of some of the floors and part of his armory.

[00:36:13.47] He had to leave Paris, as many French nobleman did, during the Franco oppression war. So he left in 1870, not to return. He sold his townhouse to the American collector William Henry Riggs who we see on the left. And with Riggs we come back to Bashford Dean, who you see without armor in the image on the right. Riggs was an American who spent most of his life in Europe. He was a New Yorker by birth, but he was educated in Switzerland. One of his classmates was J. Pierpont Morgan, and they formed a lifelong friendship.

[00:36:51.57] When Morgan was instrumental in the founding of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1870, he had Riggs made one of the original trustees in an effort to bring Riggs' collection eventually to the Museum. By that time, Riggs already had one of the major arms and armor collections in Europe. He'd been traveling to dealers' collections and auctions since the 1850s or '60s, building his tremendously large collection. But he wasn't really interested enough to commit.

[00:37:27.35] Bashford Dean at this point had a successful career as a zoologist, as a professor at Columbia University. He was the first curator on the department of fossil fishes, I believe, at the Museum of Natural History, and had been interested in arms and armor since boyhood, but his professional career was in scientific research. Part of that research took him to Japan where he indulged in his passion for immersing himself in a culture by forming a collection of Japanese armor. And I'll show you this wonderful image of Dean wearing a Japanese armor of his in Misaki in Japan where there's a marine biological station. And Dean was one of the foreign specialists invited there by the Japanese government to help develop the scientific research program there.

[00:38:19.52] While there, he built a house for his own use-- and you see a view of that on the left-- and then donated it to the university. And the house still stands today. This is a view from it in 1905 with some of Dean's private personal collection hung on the walls. So he was there to do scientific research, but because he'd been invited by the government, he had entree to many high ranking samurai families, essentially. And applying his scientific knowledge and practice, he made a real study of Japanese arms and armor. His Japanese must have been fairly good. And he was able to collect things at a very critical moment when the families were modernizing and a lot of collections were not considered with the same kind of reverence they had been in the past perhaps. So he built this great collection and brought it back to New York in 1903.

[00:39:15.37] Well, he went back to Japan. This was probably his second trip. But he offered to loan the collection to the Museum, put it on display, and write a catalog of it, and the Museum took him up on that. And he did within a year. So the Met had this great installation of Japanese arms and armor, thanks to Dean.

[00:39:37.53] Then the sort of transformational point for the Museum's collection was the acquisition of a private collection from another French nobleman, the Duke de Dino, who was most notable for having married two rich American heiresses, and they both divorced him, but not before he got a lot of money out of them. And one was from Boston, and the other one was from New York actually. And when the money finally ran out, the Duke de Dino needed to sell his collection.

[00:40:04.04] And Rutherford Stuyvesant, who is also a trustee of the Met, an old friend of Morgan and Riggs recommend very strongly that the Museum by the collection en bloc. It was being at that time shopped around to different European governments, different wealthy individuals. And at Stuyvesant's urging the Met bought it virtually sight unseen, not for the $400,000 that it says in this newspaper headline at the time, but for $250,000 for about 500 objects in 1904. That was a tremendous amount of money. It was the most money the Museum has spent on anything up to that time, and it was the most it spent on any single group for quite a long time.

[00:40:47.19] Who to turn to to get this collection cataloged and installed but Dr. Bashford Dean who had just done wonders with the Japanese collection? So the Museum turned to Dean, and within a year he had the Dino collection installed on kind of a shoestring budget, in this installation shot you see on the right, and published a handbook to it. And on the left, I'll just show you one of the great masterpieces from the collection. This is a helmet probably made for Henry II, the King of France, in Paris in about 1550. Delicately embossed steel etched in gilt. Really a tremendous thing.

[00:41:29.52] So Dean was becoming more and more involved with the Met. He eventually eased out of his role with Columbia University. He eased out of his role with the Museum of Natural History, although he still received several awards for his scientific work, including a gold medal from the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Washington. He was created Honorary Curator of Arms and Armor in 1906, and then the Museum created a full department in him as a department head in 1912.

[00:41:56.57] And this was, I think, the last nudge that was needed to get Riggs to agree to donate his collection to the Museum, which he did in 1913. He came back to New York for the first time in decades, and at Dean's house in Riverdale just north of Manhattan, he signed the contract to donate his collection during his lifetime. Dean then spent several months in Paris cataloging the collection. And they shipped it luckily just before the outbreak of the First World War, because it probably would've been impossible. Particularly after the sinking of the Lusitania, they probably would not have shipped it for years, and who knows what would have happened?

[00:42:34.42] So the Riggs collection came. About 2,000 pieces, I believe, inventoried catalog, and installed in this view you see on the left, one of the suite of purpose-built galleries designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, & White to display arms and armor at the Met at that time.

[00:42:55.94] The other slide I showed just to give an example of the type of educational programming. Dean very much wanted to spread knowledge about the material. From the time of the middle of the 19th century certainly on, there was this effort to really understand the material in a critical sense. And Dean did this series of developmental charts using draftsman working in the department to show the kind of evolution of different types of armor and weapons. And these developmental charts were in circulation for many, many years, and they still have their uses. They're a bit dated now, but it shows in one sense how forward thinking he was.

[00:43:38.78] He also had the first black and white film. We were talking about this earlier today. The Museum made a motion picture in 1924, I believe, called-- not a Night at the Museum. That's a different movie.

[00:43:52.79] [LAUGHTER]

[00:43:53.81] But something like that. And it's a silent movie. It's on the Museum's website. And armor comes out of this case at night and walks around and kind of leads the visitors on a tour to explore arms. It was very, very forward thinking for the period, and we think the first educational use of motion pictures in a museum setting.

[00:44:14.78] Dean was a private collector. Like many other people at the time, he was assisting wealthy collectors. And he fostered a group of collectors of less-- not wealthy, but sort of middle class businessmen who followed his lead and collected very seriously for decades. And this is a view of Dean's collection, again, at his home in Wave Hill in Riverdale probably in the early 1920s. He died in 1928. And after that, a great amount of his collection he bequeathed to the Museum. Then the trustees raised a tremendous amount of money to buy much more of it. His wife donated a certain amount of it, and then the remainder was sold at auction.

[00:45:04.24] Dean collected primarily armor, but some important firearms. And I'll just show one as an example. This is a Wheellock gun made about 1550 for a Flemish nobleman, Phillipe de Croy. And it is entirely veneered and carved, ivory panels decorated in low relief with mythological scenes. Really a wonderful sporting arm. Not a military weapon but a sporting weapon, or just a luxury object.

[00:45:34.43] One of the beneficiaries of Dean's collection was-- I hope somebody in the audience recognizes this slide.

[00:45:43.79] Higgins.

[00:45:44.10] The Higgins Armory. That's good. Thank you. So John Woodman Higgins was collecting from the late 19th century up until his death. And he founded a private museum built in the country's first-- maybe the world's first all glass and steel building. And many of you know the story. The collection is now merged with the Worcester Art Museum. And this is a view of it. I was there just the summer before it finally closed and photographed some of the displays. And a lot of the material is actually ex-Dean. Higgins bought quite a bit and bulked up his collection dramatically from Dean.

[00:46:25.51] Dean's successor was a man named Stephen Grancsay, who was a self-made man that begin to work for Dean right out of school because Dean needed someone who could type, and Grancsay could type. He was brilliant, though. Real native, natural kind of intelligence. And eventually after Dean's death, he became curator in 1930.

[00:46:43.91] We see him here in 1945 with a series of prototype helmets that he was developing for the United States military. And in this he was following Bashford Dean's footsteps because during the First World War, Dean had also developed prototype helmets. It was during that conflict that governments began to realize very quickly what was going on with modern warfare, that helmets and body armor were needed again. They had been out of use for centuries, and it was time to bring them back. And they experimented rapidly and developed some very effective prototypes. In the case of the First World War and Dean's work, none of the examples actually were adopted for official use before the war ended. In Grancsay's case, several of its patents were adopted by the government and did see use in the Second World War.

[00:47:34.38] Behind him you see a group of hammers that are still in the armor shop at the Met in our conservation studio. And some of these tools go back to the 18th and the 19th century. They're not so much in active use now, but they were used by the restorers and the armorers at the Museum up through the 1960s, I would say.

[00:47:56.01] This is a view of the home of Clarence Mackay, who was the head of AT&T. And this was a house called the American Versailles. That was in Roslyn, Long Island. Mackay was a chairman of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was also a major arms and armor collector, and helped Dean build the collection, and then helped his successor, Stephen Grancsay built the collection. Unfortunately, most of his fortune was lost in the crash of 1929. And his art collections, over the next few years, were sold off, entirely sold off. And this house, which you go online and look at pictures of it-- fabulous thing-- was entirely knocked down. I think one of the gate houses survives.

[00:48:42.77] Tremendously important arms and armor collection. Actually the best pieces in the Higgins that are now in the Worcester Art Museum came directly from Mackay in the sales following the liquidation of his art collections. Other key pieces went to many other private collectors, but also the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And I'll just show this one as an example. This is an armor made about the middle of the 16th century for Henry II, the King of France. Again, it's steel embossed in low relief, gilt, and silvered. And you can see from this photo on the right, which I took with my cellphone just a couple of weeks ago, how delicate and how beautiful the craftsmanship is.

[00:49:29.23] This armor had been in a Gothic revival armory in Germany. It was acquired by Mackay in the '20s, and then from him in the 1930s by the Met. That armory was overrun, or that was a region that was occupied by the Russians at the end of the Second World War, and for decades it was rumored that they had taken the armory out and burned it all over with tags because it was considered illegal weapons. And that story was circulated for decades. In reality, it was taken back to Russia and now the Russian policy is to have it officially nationalized as war reparations, the art treasures that were taken back. So if this armor had survived, it would be in a basement probably in Moscow or St. Petersburg. And we're much happier to have it in the center of a gallery in New York.

[00:50:27.42] Let's go back. Just coming back to William Randolph Hearst, also he was Mackay's chief rival in the sale rooms. They were two that pushed prices up to astronomical levels on many things, and including their arms and armor collections. He had a certain amount of his material in New York. He built San Simeon, but did not put any of his arms and armor collection there. For that he wanted a real castle, so he bought a castle in Wales. And this is an interior view of St. Donat's Castle in Wales, which is now part of a private school. I believe it said that Hearst actually only spent about a month there over the 20 years that he owned it, but he poured a tremendous amount of capital and resources having the castle fully restored, modernized, electricity, indoor plumbing, swimming pool, everything, and installed the person who was responsible for building his arms and armor collection there, and installed a collection there.

[00:51:25.83] When the Hearst collection was being sold off, a lot of the material at St. Donat's went by first choice to the world armories in the Tower of London and then other private collectors, and eventually other institutions benefited quite a bit from it. And this gives you a sense of what was the public perception of the liquidation of Hearst's collections.

[00:51:48.05] Two newspaper clippings from the period, the one from Saks Fifth Avenue, "Buying Castles Over The Counter," and someone's walking out with the mummies, someone's walking out leading a suit of armor by the hand, someone's dragging a cannon, that type of thing. And the image on the right, which we haven't been able to track down a better image of it yet, is I believe Macy's or Gimbels department store were Hearst's armor collection, it was all just put out on shelves with price tags on it. You could see that whole top row. It's all 16th century swords, which you can't find now. And they were being sold, as people I knew who were there at the time said, pennies on the dollar. You could buy them for almost nothing. So a lot of private collectors benefited from that, and a lot of institutions.

[00:52:32.70] Great Hearst pieces went to several museums. On the left is this wonderful armor for man and horse that Hearst acquired from a private collection in the '20s. Well, it was sold. It was sold from Hearst, and it went into private collection where it stayed for decades, and it was only acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art about eight years ago, I think. The only matching or the only complete armor for horse from the early 16th century that still survived in private hands.

[00:53:09.07] In the center is at armor about 1600 made for a young Italian nobleman that came to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And on the right, an armor from about the third quarter of the 16th century. This is actually in the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City. So the things that Hearst gathered within spread quite wide, and are now shared in public institutions in many parts of this country and other countries.

[00:53:37.84] One of the other collectors who benefited from the dispersal of the Hearst collection and other collections was Carl Otto von Kienbusch. And you had mentioned this. I was fortunate enough to work in Philadelphia with the Kienbusch collection from 1982 to '88. Kienbusch was a New York businessmen, Princeton grad of 1906. He was always very proud of that. And he became sort of a disciple of Bashford Dean's very early on. He enlisted and was commissioned as a lieutenant during the First World War so he could work with Dean in the helmets and body armor division, in fact, developing prototypes.

[00:54:15.14] Began collecting on a modest scale around that time or slightly earlier, and then by the 1950s and '60s, had the foremost private collection in the United States. Which you see chock-a-block in his townhouse at 12 E 74th Street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. And boy, I wish I had been able to visit that. I missed that by a few years.

[00:54:35.76] Kienbusch lived to be almost 100. He died in 1977, and he must have been in his mid 90s. And then his collection went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and that's how the collection got there. In terms of collections in the United States, the collection at the Met formed over many generations. The Philadelphia collection being 90% Kienbusch, Kienbusch following the lead of Bashford Dean and then others in Chicago. Small collection in Detroit, but there really aren't many. And the Philadelphia collection's very, very good thanks to Kienbusch you see here on the right in a portrait that's in the Princeton Art Museum.

[00:55:20.85] I focus mainly on European armor because, frankly, that's what I like best. And so give me the choice, that's what I'll talk about. But the Met's collection is very broad and deep, through acquisitions, through purchases, but also through gifts from private collectors. And one of those is a gentleman named George Cameron Stone. Stone was a metallurgist who traveled around the world from the 1880s up to his death in 1935. He collected every kind of armor and weapons you can think of that was not made in Europe. Everything outside of Europe fellow within his purview. And he bequeathed a collection to the Met, except for some of the material they had in the 1930s was deemed to be too ethnographic, and that actually went to the Peabody Museum in Salem.

[00:56:12.35] So from Stone we got about 4,000 objects going from China and Japan, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, India, and through the Middle East. Remarkable things, like just as a couple of examples, this Korean armor on the left that you're seeing from the back, that is made with about 30 layers of fabric, cotton fabric, stamped with protective symbols. On the belt is just the manta, the om mani padme hum mantra, and then other symbols for luck and auspiciousness on the shoulders and the hips. And on the right, a Mughal Indian dagger, a type called a katar, a punching dagger from the 17th or 18th centuries. The variety of the Stone collection is staggering.

[00:57:04.89] One of the last great private collections in Great Britain was formed by a gentleman named [? RT ?] [? Gwen ?], who was known as Peter [? Gwen ?]. You can see an image of him here in the center in about 1925. He was born in 1905 and went to work early in his life for the Woolworth's company in Great Britain after a short military career, and eventually became chairman of the company. He collected oak furniture, Tudor and Stuart period furniture. He collected early clocks, major collection early clocks, and a very choice collection of armor and some weapons that he kept at his house in Surrey, I believe it was.

[00:57:46.88] Peter felt very strongly that his collection should be sold at public auction so other collectors could have the joy of pursuing it, capturing it, owning it, and caring for it. He was very supportive of museums, was happy to interact with curators and scholars and share his knowledge and his information and his collection, but he felt very strongly it should go back into the market. So although a few things were sold by private treaty sale, most of it went to auction at Christie's in London in 2001, and then two to three weeks after the auction, he actually passed away at the ripe old age of 96.

[00:58:28.05] The armor on the right actually was from the Gothic revival armory we looked at earlier, Erbach Castle, where it was attributed to the 16th century robber knight [INAUDIBLE]. The table on the left has some of the few firearms he collected. He was principally an armor collector. And those firearms did come to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and these are a pair of [INAUDIBLE]-- not [INAUDIBLE]-- but northern Italian pistols from about 1690 made by a gun maker called Acqua Fresca in the little town of Bargi. The stocks are ebony. They're inlaid with silver, and then the mounts are chiseled steel. Really the highest expression of a gun maker's art in Italy at that period. He cared for them for generations, and now we are sharing them with the Museum public hopefully in perpetuity. They went on permanent display in 2012.

[00:59:26.64] We collect variety of other things. Just to give you a sense, relatively speaking, a lot of Tibetan armor and weapons came onto the market after the Cultural Revolution filtering through Nepal and London and the New York art markets. We were able to build a very deep collection of this material, and I'll just show one image as one of my favorites, which is a saddle made in about 1400 either in Tibet or China. It's chiseled steel, gilded, and set with turquoise and lapis lazuli.

[01:00:00.03] We continue to collect. We're always happy to get things by gift and bequest, but we're actively purchasing in the market too. And on the left is a sword hilt by the French sculptor Carrier-Belleuse. For us, it's easy in an art museum context to pick pieces that are pieces of sculpture or just beautiful in and of their own rights. That makes it simple for us. With some types of armor, some types of weapons, the line is blurred a bit.

[01:00:28.56] On the right is a Colt revolver that is not what you think of as your typical Colt revolver. The frame of it is a stock 1862 police model Colt, but it's anything but stock as you can see. The grip was actually designed by the American sculptor, and you get brownie points if you recognize the name, John Quincy Adams Ward, who probably has some public monuments around here and was very famous. In the late 19th century, he was as famous as Saint-Gaudens or Daniel Chester French.

[01:01:02.18] What I love about this grip and of this pistol, in addition to being a beautiful work of art is that Ward designed it very early in his career when he was really trying to get commissions as a sculptor, and just a few years after this, his career really took off. But in this period when he did this original design in 1863 or '64, he was doing small commissions, he was doing pieces for presentation arms, and the grip for this pistol, which came to us as a gift at the end of last year, and we just put on display Tuesday actually. So if you come to the Museum, be sure to have a look at it.

[01:01:37.62] We collect works on paper too. It was very important to trace the idea of designs for craftsmanship. This is from a French pattern book of the 18th century by an enigmatic engraver known only by his last name, de la Colombe, who was active up until the 1730s. And these designs, although you might think they're completely fantastical, actually can be found on many weapons. The French style of gun making was popular throughout Europe and had a great deal of influence.

[01:02:08.40] Maintenance and display of the collection, sharing with the public, key thing. The image on the left I showed just because it is the first use, we think, of Plexiglas in a museum instance. This is the reinstallation of the collections in 1956 when the cutting edge thing then was to suspend the objects on sheets of Plexi.

[01:02:32.78] As we move forward, of course, we're trying to share the collection in the digital age, and we're working very hard to update the database to add images. So if you go to the Museum's website and you look for Japanese sword guards or tsuba, but you will see images like this. We're trying to populate the database with good digital images of all of the 15,000 pieces in our department, 14,000 in our department, as is every other curatorial department to get digital images of the many, many works of art at the Met available so that people around the world can share them.

[01:03:06.78] But of course, the key thing is to come and experience the art in person. You can learn a tremendous amount from a database, and particularly depending on the amount of material we can put into it over the next few years, but there's no substitute for experiencing these pieces in the galleries themselves. Thank you very much.

[01:03:25.09] [APPLAUSE]