Helmet bowl signed Saotome Iye[tada] (Japanese, Edo period)
This armor comes from the armory of Daté Yoshimura (1703–1746), daimyo of Sendai. The helmet bowl, signed Saotome Iye, dates from the sixteenth century; the remainder of the armor was constructed in the eighteenth century. The breastplate is inscribed inside with the armorer’s name, Myochin Munesuke (1688–1735). The embossed ornament on the solid iron plates is characteristic of the Myochin school.
This masterpiece of Renaissance metalwork is signed on the browplate by Filippo Negroli, whose embossed armor was praised by sixteenth-century writers as “miraculous” and deserving “immortal merit.” Formed of one plate of steel and patinated to look like bronze, the bowl is raised in high relief with motifs inspired by classical art. The graceful mermaidlike siren forming the helmet’s comb holds a grimacing head of Medusa by the hair. The sides of the helmet are covered with acanthus scrolls inhabited by putti, a motif ultimately derived from ancient Roman sculpture and wall paintings.
Made entirety of iron, with a hollow, naturally modeled hand furnished with a movable thumb and paired fingers, internal ratchet mechanism and external push-button release, and a tubular socket comprising of a long outer plate fretted with a pattern of repealed chevrons, and short inner section formed of plain and scalloped riveted strips, each fitted with buckles for the attachment of a harness.