Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Arms Of The Ages

My first stop on Canada Day was at the Canadian War Museum, out on Lebreton Flats just west of the downtown core. It presents Canadian military history in a chronological order against the backdrop of world history in its permanent exhibits, and regularly has special temporary exhibits. The building, opened at this location in 2005 after outgrowing its previous spot, has the look of a bunker.

A new temporary exhibit is being held inside this summer. Armour examines the concept in a multitude of ways, and a substantial amount of the exhibit items comes from the collection of Frederick Stibbert. A 19th century British-Italian citizen, Stibbert spent his life collecting works of art, antiques, armour, and weaponry dating to the Middle Ages, assembled today in the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy. The classic artifacts in here largely came from that collection, with some exceptions, while the collection was fleshed out in other ways, particularly in terms of the more recent past, and there are Canadian elements of it here that you'll see that likely won't be part of the exhibit as it goes to other spots. This exhibit will be stopping in two other locations after it's done here by the beginning of September. The Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California will be hosting it from late September into January, and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida, will host it from early February into the latter part of April of next year. If either of those are within range for you, I recommend taking it in.

These two paintings, side by side, are the first thing the visitor sees.  An unknown French artist painted Equestrian Portrait, Likely Of Louis Of Bourbon, Duke Of Enghein in the late 1600s, showing him in full armour on his horse. An unknown Italian artist painted Portrait Of Giovanni dalle Bande Nere in the late 1500s. The subject is thought to be an elite cavalryman in service to nobility. The exhibit is organized thematically: armour as status, for sport, for combat, and for current day entertainment.

A rather unusual installation, this is a reconstruction of a still life Stibbert did around 1860. Natura Morta reflects his ideal that while humans are mortal, glory lasts forever. The reconstruction uses the same sort of material, though lists plastic as one of them, so it's safe to say that our Yorick isn't an original skull. 

Flash photography wasn't allowed in here, and the room was kept dim, so it wasn't optimal conditions, but this item is from another collector. It is an Edo period Samurai armour from Japan, dating to the period 1603-1868.

This is a Tlingit helmet, created by a current day artist, Tommy Joseph, from Alaska, in 2006, done in the style of his forebears.

Portrait Of Giovanni Battista del Monte is done by Francesco Apollodoro, dating to 1593, portraying a prominent mercenary of the time in armour.

An unknown artist painted Portrait of Marchesi Ascano and Vincenzo del Monte in the 1600s. These men served with the troops of the Republic of Venice, and Ascano's breastplate bears the cross of the Knights of St. John.

The notion of armour for sport starts with the concept of jousting, when men and horses were geared up with armour to entertain the king and court.

Armour still applies in current day sports, where helmets and protective padding are used regularly. Some of that was featured here. The materials are vastly different from jousting armour, of course, but the concept is still the same- protect the body of the participant. I have more from this exhibit tomorrow.


  1. I’ve never hought of how armour has changed!

  2. ...they sure do go way back!

  3. Great shape for a building and great organization, chronological order and aligned with world events. How is the lighting in the building?


  4. A fascinating collection of exhibits through the centuries William, I enjoyed very much ✨

  5. Sadly there's always been fighting. You'd think an exhibition like this would make people stop and think about the useless and harmful aspects of war.

  6. @Marie: it has certainly evolved.

    @Tom: hundreds of years.

    @Janis: the lighting inside is pretty good. It is material like a lot of this that just absorbs light that winds up making it less ideal for photography.

    @Grace: I liked seeing this collection.

    @Red: that's true.

  7. What an incredible display of armor. The Tlingit helmet is my favorite! Thanks for sharing.

  8. You need to come to the UK and Europe to see armour

  9. Interesting that they put the new helmets in there!

  10. @Francisco: thanks!

    @Jo: you're welcome.

    @Sharon: it certainly is.

    @Bill: I should! I had not heard of the Stibbert, actually, so if I'm ever in Italy, I'll have to seek it out.

    @RedPat: yes, and we'll see a bit more of that tomorrow, but it does make sense- sporting equipment as armour.

  11. Seems like an interesting collection.

  12. Quite a collection. A must visit no doubt.

  13. Armour is something you don't think of. What a wonderful and interesting collection.
    Thank you William for the tour.

  14. Beautiful collection. Love those old portraits. I am waiting for a time machine so I can travel back and observe those times...somehow, without getting injured...

  15. Rather unique war museum ~

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  16. I wish they'd allowed just a little better lighting. It's hard to see these interesting pieces.

  17. @Marleen: it was.

    @Catarina: I thought so.

    @Bill: you're welcome.

    @Pat: hah! I'd be inclined to go back in time to do something, like... give Donald Trump's dad a vasectomy.

    @Carol: it's quite a museum to visit.

    @Kay: there were others I tried to photograph that were pretty much just blank slates. The steel really absorbs any useful light. You could see the details with your eyes, but not the camera.

  18. What a great exhibit and I thoroughly enjoyed your photos. I was particularly interested in the Tlingit helmet, only just finding out about the Tlingit from our recent trip to Alaska. We are always learning thanks to blogs such as yours. Thanks William!

  19. wonder about those men ... did they enjoy those outfits or did they think they were stuffy and not fun? ( ;