The Triumph of Mars: Arms, Armor and the Material Culture of War in Early Modern Europe, 1400-1800


Spring 2010


5th Floor Classroom


Jonathan Tavares

Today war is often thought of as the antithesis of art and culture, but in the early modern world it was a great stimulus to the arts of design in all media. Weapons are adorned with jewelry, while armor could imitate the fashion of the finest silks. Society often boasted the ‘glories’ of war not only in song, literature, and speech, but also in visual and material culture. This seminar will study the material remains of this culture of conflict and pageantry as it influenced technology, costume design, architecture, print culture, the art of the book, and especially metalwork in early modern Europe. Themes will include the pageantry of tournaments; the art of heraldry; the image of war in popular culture-its glories and miseries; the image of noble princes; the birth of manuals for drills and martial arts; fashion and the battle field; the artistic and theoretical approaches used to design bastions and other forms of martial architecture; and the development of new technology and mechanics and the role of the engineer. This course will meet often in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Department of Arms and Armor to take advantage of a great resource of rare books, costumes, prints, parade armor, luxury firearms and many other facets of this martial culture. Students will be encouraged to engage with this often ‘marginalized’ cultural history of warfare and pageantry as it relates to their own fields of interest and explore the broad and definite impact of conflict on the arts of design.