Words by Ambar Ramirez
As a little girl, I dreamed a knight in shining armor would save me from my one-story apartment and whisk me away on his white horse. But, of course, that’s a fairy tale, except that knights in shining armor very much existed. They just weren’t saving princesses from tall towers (and they probably didn’t own white horses).
On Oct. 21, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens revealed its newest exhibition to the public. As part of “The Age of Armor”: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum, visitors can view the large collection of armor and artillery weapons that are, quite literally, from ages ago.
While armor is primarily worn to protect a person in combat, it makes a statement about the wearer, according to Cummer Director and CEO Andrea Barnwell Brownlee. “It’s also about identity and social prestige and heroes and the past.”
Interestingly, I found the exhibit addresses misconceptions when it comes to people’s idea of armor, weapons and their uses. We’ve all read fairy tales and watched movies or TV shows about knights and their glinting armor, but I found that those types of knights have been construed to entertainment’s favor. They don’t convey the reality of the people who wore these suits of armor and the people who made them.
“This exhibition focuses on how they evolved and how they changed over time and how they were used,” Brownlee said. “It’s a really incredible project.”
Starting from 2000 BCE, the exhibit portrays the evolution and progression of armor from simply being functional to becoming more ceremonial. The armor displayed at the beginning of the collection highlights the practicality of the suits and how they were tailored uniquely for each warrior. Despite these suits being made out of heavy metals or alloys like bronze, they were designed in a way to allow warriors to move and fight.
As one continues to walk through the showing, time progression is highlighted through the details of design. It is emphasized that this collection isn’t about showcasing a famous suit of armor worn by a famous warrior or duke. Instead, it is about revealing the growth and decline of armor.
“What I love, love, love about museums right now more so than ever is something that we’ve been talking about, time travel,” Brownlee said. “Every time you come here, you have an opportunity to experience something new, to live through the eyes of different artists, live through the eyes of different perspectives.”
The further you go into the exhibit, the further the suits move away from being practical and become more about representing one’s social status. Certain engravings, fabrics and forms were meticulously chosen to portray what was fashionable during that time. In the 1500s, for example, the armor highlights that idea of impracticality with the choice of bold materials and detailed engravings that had no reason of being used in actual combat.
In addition to full suits of armor, the collection also displays weapons, accessories and refurbished protective items. The collection is highly captivating, as well as educational. They say you learn something new every day, but I learned more than just one thing.
“The Age of Armor” is on display at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens through Jan. 22.