The Acton Ta kamaki - e d ō , T ō sei Gusoku Armor, Edo Period

Both elegant and functional, this multicolored lacquered, silk, paper and leather samurai armor belonged to an important Daimyō, a powerful feudal ruler from the Edo period. Through the mon (family crest) we have identified that he belonged to the Aojima family. The armor, which dates from the late 17th to the early 18th century, is complete except for the suneate (shin guards) and the front kusazuri (skirt). The kabuto (helmet) is an “Akodanari”, an excellent work by the Myōchin armor makers, dated around the middle of the 16th century. The menpō (half mask, lacquered red interior ) is signed by one of the most famous armor makers, Neo Masanobu. The dō (cuirass) bears a beautiful flying dragon motif, symbol of power and a gilded stylized pattern which refers to lighting, also connected to power and death. These motifs and colors emphasize the spectacular impression these armors evoked .

Conservation Video

In 2013 Italian and American conservators worked on a multi-material conservation project to display an original and rare 17th century Japanese Armor from the Acton Collection. This video was created to show the behind-the-scene, and step-by-step treatment targeted to its installation inside Villa La Pietra. NYU Conservation and Museum Study graduate students were involved in the project.

Conservation Treatment

Conservators removed accumulated dust with gentle surface cleaning. The textile elements, a rare kinra n made of silk and gilded paper, are very fragile. To prevent damage during handling and mounting, the textile conservators made rigid supports for the movable parts. Then they aligned the loose and tangled wefts and stitched a custom dyed special nylon net over the kinran. Because the beautiful silk lacing is brittle and partly missing, the conservators supported it by interlacing the loose lacquer parts with black silk threads.

Images from the restoration

See below.

A Collaborative Effort

We are able to display this armor thanks to a collaboration with the Stibbert Museum, the former home of Frederick Stibbert (1838 – 1906) a friend of Arthur and Hortense Acton. Stibbert gathered a collection of Western and Asian arms, armor, paintings, costumes, tapestries, ceramics and furniture.

The museum currently has an exhibition devoted to its large collection of Japanese armor , “Samurai!.” The exhibition runs until November 3, 2013.

In conjunction with the Stibbert exhibition, Villa La Pietra is showcasing the only Japanese armor purchased by the Acton family. The armor will be on display at Villa La Pietra until October , 2013.

The Stibbert Museum helped us gain an understanding of the history, materials, construction and mounting of the armor. Special thanks to: Enrico Colle, Director; Francesco Civita, Curator of Oriental Section; and Tomaso François , Conservator.

Maurizo Trapani, filmmaker, created a video; Alessandro Tazioli made the mount.

The project was made possible by Claudia Beyer and Costanza Perrone Da Zara , textile conservators; Ellyn Toscano, Executive Director; and Francesca Baldry , Collection Manager . Special t hanks to the Museum Studies Interns Gena Stanley , Jennifer Scofield, and Emily Sandefer; IFA conservation students Kari Rayner and Abigail Teller; and NYU consulting conservators Deborah Trupin and Pamela Hatchfield .