Major exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art to showcase some of
the most exceptional European arms and armor in existence
‘The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection
at the Worcester Art Museum’ opens Nov. 6
TOLEDO: The image of the knight in shining armor is familiar
from fairy tales, films and games, but what was the reality
behind the myth? Armor is as old as human civilization and has
taken many forms and served many purposes through the ages.
A new exhibition explores armor made for the battlefield,
tournaments and ceremonies, highlighting armor’s practical
function, and its cultural role as a symbol of personal
identity, social prestige and the values of a heroic past. The
Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at
the Worcester Art Museum presents European suits of
armor from one of the most important and largest collections of
the material in the U.S.
The exhibition of more than 80 works focuses on the development
and history of the classic knightly suit of plate armor, which
was used from the mid-1300s to the mid-1600s, as well as how
armor has been used in various forms around the globe, from
antiquity to the modern era.
The Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection
at the Worcester Art Museum is curated by Jeffrey Forgeng, The Higgins Curator of
Arms & Armor and Medieval Art at WAM. The exhibition is co-curated
at TMA by Diane Wright, TMA’s senior curator of glass and
contemporary craft, and Sophie Ong, the Museum’s Hirsch
The exhibition premieres in the Toledo Museum of Art’s Levis
Gallery Nov. 6, 2021, through Feb. 27, 2022, before a national
tour. Tickets are required for entry to the exhibition. TMA
members receive free admission.
of Armor will be the first major exhibition at TMA
to celebrate the industry and artistry of the armorer’s craft
from antiquity to the advent of the modern age,” added Ong. “We
are honored to share the extraordinary arms and armor from the
Higgins Armory Collection with our audiences in Toledo and
spotlight armor’s pivotal function in social and political life,
in addition to its martial role.”
“Maximilian” Field Armor, about 1525–1530, Southern German,
steel, iron, and leather with modern restorations, The John Woodman
Higgins Armory Collection, 2014.111.
Helmet in the form of a Sea Conch Shell, 1618, Nagasone Tojiro
Mitsumasa (Japanese, 1600s), iron with traces of lacquer and
textiles, The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection, 2014.89.1.
The comprehensive exhibition narrates the story of how armor
evolved, how it was constructed and how it has impacted our
cultural memory. The
Age of Armor begins by inviting viewers to trace the
progressive use of metals such as bronze, iron and steel for
armor and weapons from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece and the
time of the legendary Trojan War, when the increased importance
of the foot-soldier coupled with the emergence of democracy.
The exhibition continues into the Middle Ages, when knights with
expensive iron coats of mail, as well as swords, lances and
horses came to dominate the battlefield. For better protection,
knights were soon to be covered from head to toe in suits of
plate armor ultimately generating the popular and nostalgic
image of the chivalrous knight in shining armor. Armorers
transformed steel plates into elaborate and refined versions of
civilian clothing as well as fantastical, highly decorated
fashion statements. At the same time, however, armor began to
lose ground against firearms.
the numerous object highlights are a bronze Corinthian helmet
from 600-500 B.C.E; Italian and Gothic-style German infantry
breastplates from the late 1400s; stylish steel “Maximilian”
field armor from about 1525-30; the left gauntlet for Prince
(later King) Philip of Spain’s 1549-50 suit of armor known as
the Flowers Garniture; a three-quarter field armor probably made
for Henry Herbert, second Earl of Pembroke in the 1560s; a
16th-century German mail coat that was exported to the Ottoman
Empire and then northern Africa where it was lengthened for
better leg protection; muskets and pistols from the 1600s; a
flamboyant late feudal Japanese helmet in the form of a sea
conch shell dating to 1618; and a russeted steel and gold helmet
with mail neck-guard from 19th-century Sudan.
The exhibition is sponsored locally by presenting sponsors
Taylor Cadillac and Susan and Tom Palmer, as well as 2021
Exhibition Program sponsor ProMedica, with additional support
from the McLoughlin Family Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.