Gourmet Fair

The Splendor of the Samurai

Samurais of the Satsuma Domain, one of the most powerful in its time in Japan. Photograph from the album: Views & Costumes of Japan by Stillfried & Andersen Felice Beato (1832-1909), Japan, Yokohama, Meiji, period 1877-1880. Colorized albumen silver print. 19,4 × 24,2 cm.MNAAG, old inventory, AP 11388©RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / image musée Guimet. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

Paris, France — It was a world of dragons and dragonflies, swords and sabres, long and short, these were part of the regalia of the samurai the legendary and very real, prestigious and warrior cast spanning seven centuries in Japan starting in the Middle Ages and whose legacy lives on today. Between the 12th and 19th centuries, the Japanese warriors were placed at the top of the Japanese hierarchy. They emanated from the elite and aristocratic classes and followed a path that gave fundamental importance to literature and culture influencing artistic production, witness their spectacular and exuberant helmets, they also actively engaged in literature and poetry. They shared numerous leisure activities with Buddhist monks like tea ceremonies, an appreciation of fragrance known as the Way of Fragrance or the art of appreciating Japanese incense, and flower arrangement, the ikebana still practiced today. Theater, too played a major role in samurai culture, notably kabuki.

The samurai Hatakeyama Shigetada (1164-1205) Japan, Edo period, 1820-1821. This is a wood block print known as a surimono in Japanese. 20,8 × 18,6 cm. MNAAG, old inventory, MG 12118©MNAAG, Paris, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The samurai and the arts and culture that flourished around them are the object of an exhibition being played out at the MNAAG museum in Paris, France’s National Museum of Asian Arts-Guimet, the museum devoted to the arts of Asia, frequently referred to as the Guimet. Entitled The Bow and the Sabre, the Imagined World of the Japanese Warrior, the show brings together a host of objects, art works and cultural items ranging from manuscripts to engravings, statues, pottery and porcelain. Costumes and weapons are also on hand with many of the items in the show emanating from the MNAAG’s extensive collection of Asian arts.

The women’s apartments of the Chiyoda Palace, Yoshu Chikanobu (1838-1912), Japan, Meiji period, 1884-1886.Album of nishiki-e, a type of Japanese multi-colored woodblock printing, accordion bound, 24 × 35,5 cm MNAAG, purchase (2012), MA 12449. ©RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / Thierry Ollivier. Handout via The Gourmet Gazette

The Guimet has one of the largest collections of Asian art outside of Asia and is worth a visit for its large, unique permanent collections that include superb Buddhist art works, Chinese and Japanese porcelain, works from the Khmer culture and Indian art. It was founded by the widely traveled French industrialist Emile Etienne Guimet in the 19th century. There is a restaurant on the premises, the Salon des Porcelains, and traditional Japanese tea ceremonies are held in the garden of the neighboring Hôtel d’Heidelbach, which is part of the museum.
The samurai exhibition is running until August 29th.
©Trish Valicenti for The Gourmet Gazette
6 Place d’Iéna
75116 Paris, France
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