Travel back in time for an awe-inspiring look at Japan’s exquisitely crafted samurai armor. Coming to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller collection—one of the largest and finest collections in the world—the assembled works offer a glimpse of samurai history with a focus on ceremonial adornments created within the flourishing artistic culture of the Edo period. Offering a rare personal encounter with these stunning works of art, the exhibition of more than 140 objects features full suits of armor and an array of weapons, helmets, masks, horse accessories, woodblock prints, and textiles. As a worldwide fascination with and reverence for samurai warriors persists today, VMFA’s immersive exhibition delves into the storied world of this elite military class, tracing the evolution and artistic legacy of its famed armor.

The samurai, whose name means “those who serve”, rose to preeminence as masterful swordsmen, archers, and equestrians beginning in the 12th century. During the Edo period (1615–1868), they continued to dominate political, social, and cultural aspects of Japan until their fall in the late 19th century. Celebrated for their bravery and honor in times of battle, in times of peace the samurai dominated as a prestigious class, and their armor continued to be a symbol of pride and pageantry. The legacy of craftsmanship passed down through generations and retained through the Edo period and even to present day attests to the samurai’s enduring significance. At VMFA, the works of art on view belong to the remarkable collection of more than a thousand works amassed by Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller.

This exhibition is organized by The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas.

Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Exhibition Fund
William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust
Julia Louise Reynolds Fund

Fabergé Ball Endowment
Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation

Nancy and Wayne Chasen
Francena T. Harrison Foundation

Denise Berthiaume and Jack McKeown
Birch Douglass
Nancy and Peter Huber
Ikebana of Richmond
The Japan-Virginia Society
Troutman Pepper

Mike and Sally Hunnicutt | Junko and Joseph Liesfeld, Jr. | Arnel Manalo | Michelle and John Nestler | Barbara Basl Stokey | White Trivas Family Foundation | Tom Williamson and Janet Brown

This list reflects sponsors as of April 16, 2024.

Nimaitachidō Tōsei Gusoku Armor, Muromachi period, ca. 1400 (helmet bowl); mid-Edo period, 18th century (armor), Attributed: Myōchin Yoshimichi (helmet bowl); Myōchin Munenori (armor), iron, shakudō, lacing, silver, wood, gold, brocade, fur, bronze, brass, leather. © The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum, Dallas. Photo: Brad Flowers