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WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

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Friday, April 30, 2021

Battle Ready: Weapons and Tactics of the European Soldier

In the previous section of this two-part WAM Update, we learned how, beginning in the 14th century, European armies began to shift their focus from knights and heavy cavalry towards infantry and common-born soldiers. This led to changes in tactics, in the shape of fortifications, and in the organization of the army itself. In this section, we will look at the rapid rise of firearms, and the further changes they brought to both armor and fighting style, ultimately making cavalry obsolete.


By the mid-16th century, the man-at-arms was rapidly adding pistols to his arsenal, often without the lance and in some cases adding an additional firearm, the carbine. These shorter barreled firearms were less accurate and thus needed to be used at close ranges. It was discovered that by increasing the thickness of the cuirass (breast and backplate) of the armor, it could be made proof against pistols and other light firearms. Thus it was that the heavily armored cavalry of the mid-16th century onwards became known as cuirassiers, in reference to their reinforced armor. 17th century cavalry continued to make shock attacks, with drawn swords followed up by pistols after the enemy line had been broken through.

A gun with a wooden stock, in a shape somewhat similar to a modern rifle, but only a single short barrel. It is front-loading, with an elaborate wheeled mechanism controlled by the trigger (a clamp that would hold a piece of flint and a spring-loaded steel wheel that can be wound), and the rear ends in a sphere with ivory inlay.
Master "NEH", Puffer (wheel-lock pistol) for the Mounted Guards of Elector Christian I of Saxony (r. 1586-91),
German, Saxony, dated 1588. Steel with blueing, walnut, and horn. 5 lb, 2 oz (weight).
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.47

A suit of silver-colored armor with brass studs, some arranged in rosettes; the overlapping plates do not extend past the knees, and the face is uncovered apart from a brim above the eyes. Armor is accessorized with a red sash and a basket-hilt rapier.
Three-Quarter Armor for a Cuirassier, Southern German, Augsburg, 1620–1625.
Steel and brass with modern leather. 47lb. 1oz. (weight).
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.1135

Not all cavalry were heavy types. Lighter cavalry had long existed, using light lances and less armor. By the late 15th century they came to be known as demi-lancers. As firearms were introduced, new types of light cavalry evolved creating a variety of new types whose roles would often overlap, blur and change definition as time passed. An example is the dragoon, whose role was originally as a mounted harquebusier, essentially a mounted infantryman who dismounted to fight, using the horse as rapid transport. However, dragoons quickly adapted to the role of using their firearms from the saddle and by the 18th century were essentially an unarmored form of cavalry using pistols, sabers, and carbines.


A gun with wooden stock, again reminiscent of a modern rifle, with a single long and thin barrel. Again it is front-loading and has a complex mechanism controlled by the trigger. The wood is decorated with brass and ivory inlay.
Wheel-Lock Carbine for the Personal Guard (Trabanten) of Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau,
Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg (r. 1587-1611), 
German/Suhl, about 1590.
Steel, brass, bone, iron, and wood. 4 lb, 3 oz (weight).
 The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.51

In the mid-16th century the army infantries typically had 2 soldiers with firearms (or shot) to every 5 pikemen. The shot, like archers previously, were primarily for ranged combat, supporting the pikes in their melee combat, which was seen as the primary role of infantry. Pikemen also defended the shot from assault by enemy pikemen and cavalry. This ratio gradually shifted as the lighter arquebus was replaced with the powerful musket. By 1600 the ratio had become 3 shot to every 1 pike. This was partially due to the large amount of siege warfare in the second half of the 16th century, where a man with a firearm was far more effective than one with a pike.
Another gun with a wooden stock somewhat shaped like a modern rifle, but with only a single barrel. The barrel is wider than the previous gun, and the wood largely undecorated. The mechanism controlled by the trigger is a simple clamp that could hold a burning piece of rope.
Matchlock Musket, Austrian, Wiener-Neustadt, about 1675. Steel, iron and wood. 15 lb 4 oz (weight).
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.616

The 17th century would see the armor of the cuirassier gradually reduced to just a cuirass and helmet, with all other plate defenses removed to increase speed as the more powerful musket could more readily pierce even reinforced armors. Other forms of cavalry would abandon armor altogether. As the century progressed cavalry came to be used in more of a supporting role to the infantry, though still used to deliver the fatal blow to an enemy after they had been broken.
A black ink print on yellowed paper, showing a section of an army from an overhead view. Footsoldiers and horse-mounted fighters are arranged in large organized blocks, with the largest at the center and the rest surrounding. The labeling is in Italian.
Italian Army on the March, European, early 17th century. Ink engraving on paper. Prints.
The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection. 2014.594

As the ratio of shot to pike continued to shift in the former’s favor, so too changed the tactics. Instead of using large blocks of slow moving pikemen supported by shot, the new ratio required spreading out the shot in longer thinner lines to maximize firepower, as well as offering a smaller target. The formation was also more maneuverable, as the tactical units shifted from larger regiments of 2,000 men to smaller companies of 120. The pikemen adopted the same formation to spread the limited number of pikes facing the enemy and to continue to support the shot from melee attack. Additionally, the use of larger numbers of field artillery enhanced the overall firepower of the linear formation, giving it an emphatic punch. Cavalry were used to scout and sweep the flanks. The Battle of Breitenfeld, September 17, 1631 saw the Swedes use linear tactics to beat bulky Imperial pike squares; this would become a model for linear tactics that was used up to the First World War.

A black ink print on cream paper showing examples of troop movement. Each starts with a column of soldiers depicted as eight bars (representing companies of soldiers) arranged into a rectangle. Dotted lines indicate how each company would move from this column into a straight line in an organized manner, with different movements depending on where the ending line falls relative to the original column.
Engraved by Amos Doolittle (American, 1754–1832), Plan of Military Evolutions,
American, early 1800s. Engraving on cream wove paper. Prints.
Charles E. Goodspeed Collection. 1910.48.837

Colored print on cream paper of a soldier on a horse; the soldier wears a solid breastplate and a helmet with a large crest, but no other armor.
Philibert Louis Debucourt (French, 1755–1832), Cuirassier Prussien, about 1800.
Aquatint and watercolor on cream wove paper. Prints.
Mrs. Kingsmill Marrs Collection. 1926.1122

A colorful print on cream paper depicting a soldier in a red coat uniform resting a musket on the ground beside him; the wood stock gun is nearly as long as he is tall, reaching his shoulder. The soldier shakes the hand of a crying woman with two children beside her; a third child stands behind her, dressed in a perfect soldier's uniform including a gun with bayonet held at his side.
Isaac Cruikshank (Scottish, 1764–1811) after Woodward, The Soldier's Farewell, 1803.
Etching with watercolor on cream wove paper. Prints.
 Gift of Dr. Samuel B. Woodward. 1934.872 (Detail)

By the 18th century the musketeer had become the main fighting force of the armies of Europe, supported by artillery and cavalry; cuirassiers were now few in number. The flintlock musket would replace the matchlock while the socket bayonet, developed by the French, allowed musketeers to convert their weapons into spears. This enabled musketeers to shoot and effectively engage in melee, making the pikemen obsolete. However, Napoleon made great use of cuirassiers and brought them back into vogue in the 19th century, though cavalry would never again dominate the battlefield as it had in the Middle Ages. The 19th century saw the musket supplanted by the rifled musket and then cartridge fed rifles. Cuirassiers continued to serve on the battlefields of Europe through the First World War. In the 1930s, French cuirassier units would have their horses and armor replaced by tanks, effectively ending the age of armored horsemen.

A painting of two men in 19th century military uniform conversing on a muddy road. One rides a white horse and carries a spear with two small banners, the other stands huddled with a wooden stock gun tucked under one arm. There is a strong wind, and the brushstrokes in the grey sky suggest rain.
Christian Sell (German, 1831–1883), Two Patriots, 1870s. Oil on panel. Paintings.
Gift of Mrs. Roger N. Heald. 1972.50

—By Neal Bourbeau, Programming Coordinator

April 30, 2021

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pages of Patterns: The "Kosode Hinagatabon" and Kimono Design

Our current show, The Kimono in Print: 300 Years of Japanese Design, examines the kimono as a significant source of ingenuity and experimentation in Japanese print culture, from the Edo period (1603-1868) to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Through stunning works created by artists such as Kikugawa Eizan (1787-1867), Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-92), and Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865), the exhibition emphasizes the intersections between kimono woodblock print production. 

Among my favorite works in The Kimono in Print are pattern and fashion books, known as kosode hinagatabon. They create a bridge between kimono woodblock printing by being an integral part of the kimono design selection process. Customers, as well as the makers and sellers of kimono, would first turn to kosode hinagatabon for assistance. These books contained illustrations of designs and patterns that were usually accompanied by notes on colors.

Figs. 1 & 2. Tsuda Seifu (Japanese, 1880-1978), Spirals (Kamonfu), Unkidō (publisher),
2 vols., Japan, 1900, color woodblock-printed book. Museum purchase
through the Eliza S. Paine Fund, the Stoddard Acquisition Fund,
and the Harriet B. Bancroft Fund: 2019.12.2

During the Edo period, men lived in the “public sphere", and were required to wear clothing in compliance with their social status. Women, on the other hand, lived in the “private sphere”, and were comparatively free to select clothing styles based on their own circumstances as long as they did not run counter to their social status. They could choose details such as the fabric, design, color, and decoration techniques. An illustration from the 1722 reprint of Nishikawa’s Book of Patterns (Nishikawa hinagata), which was originally published in 1686, reveal on how women consulted and interacted with kosode hinagatabon. It depicts three women in a domestic setting as they choose designs from a pattern book; the image is accompanied by the following dialogue: 

Elder sister: “What an unusual design!” 
Mother: “Look for a pattern that you like.” 
Younger sister: “Let’s go with this one.” 


Other kosode hinagatabon volumes also provide more insight. For example, the front inside cover of Modern Patterns: Sleeves of One Thousand Years (Tōsei moyō hinagata chitose sode), published in 1754, bears an inscription that reads: “Look through this book, and let us know right away about which pattern you like!”

Women would consult these pattern books for inspiration, and place orders for their custom kimono following discussions with clerks at tailors’ shops or from the comfort of their own homes. A tailor  recorded the details of the customer’s request, which were then arranged and kept in ledgers. The notes would then be used to create full-size draft drawings with specifications. They were sent together with the fabric to other craftspeople, such as dyers and embroiderers, for the next stages of the production process. Once the decoration was finished, the garment was complete.

Fig. 3. Ito Shinsui (Japanese, 1898-1972),
Woman with Marumage Hairstyle, 1924,
 color woodblock print with burnishing on silver mica ground.
 Gift of Edward Kenway: 1960.7

Kosode hinagatabon were sold in urban bookstores—not unlike fashion magazines today—alongside other printed materials such as illustrated books and novels. Approximately 170 to 180 pattern and design books were issued in the roughly 150 years from the mid-17th to the early 19th century. Tailors would purchase and collect volumes to show to customers who came to their shops requesting commissioned pieces; they would even lend them to favored clients so that they could peruse and select patterns in private. However, the consumers of such publications were primarily urban townswomen, who purchased them as keepsakes to read and enjoy at home.

As women were the main consumers of both kosode hinagatabon and custom kimono, the majority of the designs featured in the books were targeted toward adult women. Pattern books were even organized according to the rank and age of the women ordering kimono. For example, designs in the 1677 publication, Newly Published Kosode Patterns (Shinpan kosode hiinagata), are divided into patterns for “young women” (shōjo), “young men” (shōnen), “courtesans” (yūjo), and the “elite”.

However, it should not be assumed that these designs were actually directed at a readership from these specific demographics. Rather, these were “in-the-style-of” illustrations that were intended to appeal to ordinary townswomen with a voyeuristic appetite for the fashions of these particular groups.

Figs. 4 & 5. Kamisaka Sekka (Japanese, 1866-1942),
  Faces of the Old Capital (Miyako no omokage), Japan, 1890,
color woodblock-printed book with graduated colors (bokashi).
Museum purchase through the Eliza S. Paine Fund,
the Stoddard Acquisition Fund, and the Harriet B. Bancroft Fund: 2019.14

Many kosode hinagatabon also focused on particular themes or specialized fashion techniques, which became popular from the early eighteenth century onward. For instance, the 1686 volume, Patterns from the Various Provinces (Shokoku on-hiinagata, published in 1686) is arranged based on regional styles, highlighting Kyoto, Edo (present-day Tokyo), Nagoya, and Okayama. Another example, Patterns from the Capital (Miyako hinagata, published in 1691, organizes its designs based on eight colors. 

In some cases, pattern books also supplied designs for other types of textiles, such as Lined Yukata (Yukata awase, published between 1781 and 1789) and Yūzen Patterns (Yūzen hiinagata, published in 1688), which provided designs for clothing such as the hemp katabira worn in the summer, and the yukata worn after bathing, silk yogi coverlets for sleeping, as well as motifs for waist sashes (obi). 

One of the many things I find so interesting about kosode hinagatabon is that in addition to serving as  inspiration for boldly patterned kimono, they also quickly became a source for artisans to create other commercial products as well as other genres of Japanese art, such as lacquerware, ceramics, and even arms and armor. For example, the two-volume book, Spirals (Kamonfu, published in 1900), contains a depiction of tsuba, or Japanese sword guards. The tsuba pattern could be used as a kimono design, to embellish other objects, or even inform the decoration of actual tsuba

Fig. 6. Left: Tsuda Seifu (Japanese, 1880-1978), Spirals (Kamonfu), Unkidō (publisher),
2 vols., Japan, 1900, color woodblock-printed book. Museum purchase through the
Eliza S. Paine Fund, the Stoddard Acquisition Fund, and the Harriet B. Bancroft Fund: 2019.12.2  
Right: Tsuba (sword guard) with Flowers, Sickle, and Bamboo Basket, Japan, 1600s,
copper alloy and gold. Bequest of Mildred Marcus Levin and Harold Lester Levin of Nutley, NJ: 1976.240 

—By Rachel Parikh, Assistant Curator of Asian and Middle Eastern Art
April 14, 2021

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