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256 pages. Over 300 color illustrations
8.31 × 9.44 in
As the soul of the samurai, the sword is famously both the symbol and instrument of Japanese military prowess. Less known, at least in the West, is its role as a fashion accessory or status symbol. And more than the weapon itself, it was the sword’s metal fittings that reflected the complexities of samurai life, from codes of honor to flamboyant leisure - and that remain among the most sophisticated and accomplished metalwork ever created. Lethal Elegance presents 150 of these remarkable sword fittings, and is one of the few books in a western language to focus on their styles and techniques. It discusses the visual effects achieved with different alloys, the evolution of fittings following changes in warfare, the symbolism of motifs, and standards for connoisseurship. Nearly all these fittings were once owned by trained swordsmen, and the weapons they ornamented could surely inflict fatal wounds. But their extraordinary variety and beauty also reveal them as wonders of self-expression and personal style.
Joe Earle is Vice-President of Japan Society, New York, and Director of Japan Society Gallery. He was formerly Chair of the Department of Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he initiated several gallery and documentation projects, including the digitization and release to the web of the Museum’s world-famous collection of Japanese woodblock prints. He has presented many exhibitions in Great Britain and the United STates, among them “Visions of Japan” (1991) and “Bye Bye Kitty!!! Between Heaven and Hell in Contemporary Japanese Art” (2011). He has also written, edited, and translated many books on Japanese art and culture, including Netsuke: Fantasy and Reality in Japanese Miniature Sculpture; The Japanese Sword; Japanese Art and Design; Flower Bronzes of Japan; The Index of Inro Artists; New Bamboo: Contemporary Japanese Masters; and Buriki: Japanese Tin Toys from the Golden Age of the American Automobile.