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Lethal Elegance

por Joe Earle

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As the "soul of the samurai," the sword is famously both the symbol and instrument of Japanese military prowess. Less known, at least in the West, is its role as a fashion accessory or status symbol. And more than the weapon itself, it was the sword's metal fittings--from the hand guard to the small decorative plates on the hilt--that reflected the complexities of samurai life. Some fittings were meant to convey the honor and self-control expected of a samurai while on official duty, while other, more flamboyant ones reflected his leisure-time persona as "man about town." Later, when the wearing of swords spread beyond the samurai class, both the decorative function of the fittings and the variety of their designs sharply increased, leading to some of the most sophisticated and accomplished metalwork ever created. Lethal Elegance presents 150 of these remarkable sword fittings, and is one of the few books in a Western language to focus on the visual presentation, rather than the function or culture of the sword. It discusses the many effects achieved with different alloys, the evolution of fittings in relation to changes in warfare, the symbolism of particular motifs, and standards for connoisseurship. Nearly all these fittings were once owned by trained swordsmen, and the weapons they ornamented could surely inflict fatal wounds. But their extraordinary variety and beauty, lavishly illustrated and carefully presented by Joe Earle, also reveal them as marvels of self-expression and personal style.… (mais)
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As the soul fo the samurai, the sord is famously both the symbol and the instrument of Japanese military prowess. Less known, at least in the west, is its role as a fashion accessory or status symbol. And more than the weapon itself, it was the swordd's metal fittings that reflected the complexities of the samurai life, from codes of honor to flamboyant leisure-and that remain among the most sophisticated and accomplished metal work ever created. Lethal Elegance presents 150 of these remarkable sword fittings, and is one of the few books in a western language to focus on their styles and techniques. It discusses the visual effects achieved with different alloys, the evolution of fittings following changes in warfare, the symbolism of motifs, and standards for connoisseurship. Nearly all these fittings were once owned by trained swordsmen, and the weapons they ornamented could surely inflict fatal wounds. But their extraordinary variety and beauty also reveal them as wonders of self-expression and personal style. Joe Earle is Chair of the Department of Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Formerly Keeper of the Far Eastern Department at London's Victoria and Albert Museum from 1983 to 1987, he was responsible for the creation there of the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art. He has curated many exhibitons in Great Britain and the United States, among them 'Japan Style' (1980), 'Visions of Japan' (1991), and 'Splendors of Meiji' (1999). He has also written, edited, and translated many books on Japanese art and culture, including Netsuke: Fantasy and Reality in Japanese Miniature Sculpture, The Japanese Sword, Japanese Art and Design, Flower Bronzes of Japan, Flowers of the Chisel, The Robert S. Huthart Collection of Netsuke, Infinite Spaces: The Art and Wisdom of the Japanese Garden, Japanese Lacquer: The Chiddingstone Castle Collection, and The Robert S. Huthart Collection of Iwami Netsuke.
  IrimiNow | Feb 12, 2011 |
A detailed look at the artistry of the metal fittings on Japanese swords - mostly the round tsuba (sword guards).

This was another exhibit that I didn't see, but the catalog alone makes up for it. Hundreds of pictures, most in color, of these unique works of art. ( )
  SeiShonagon | Jun 3, 2006 |
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As the "soul of the samurai," the sword is famously both the symbol and instrument of Japanese military prowess. Less known, at least in the West, is its role as a fashion accessory or status symbol. And more than the weapon itself, it was the sword's metal fittings--from the hand guard to the small decorative plates on the hilt--that reflected the complexities of samurai life. Some fittings were meant to convey the honor and self-control expected of a samurai while on official duty, while other, more flamboyant ones reflected his leisure-time persona as "man about town." Later, when the wearing of swords spread beyond the samurai class, both the decorative function of the fittings and the variety of their designs sharply increased, leading to some of the most sophisticated and accomplished metalwork ever created. Lethal Elegance presents 150 of these remarkable sword fittings, and is one of the few books in a Western language to focus on the visual presentation, rather than the function or culture of the sword. It discusses the many effects achieved with different alloys, the evolution of fittings in relation to changes in warfare, the symbolism of particular motifs, and standards for connoisseurship. Nearly all these fittings were once owned by trained swordsmen, and the weapons they ornamented could surely inflict fatal wounds. But their extraordinary variety and beauty, lavishly illustrated and carefully presented by Joe Earle, also reveal them as marvels of self-expression and personal style.

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