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In the 1920s the Metropolitan began to explore filmmaking as part of its educational program, and in 1924 it released two films about arms and armor. In preparation for this new undertaking, Bashford Dean, the head of the Arms and Armor department, sought the advice of Hollywood professionals D. W. Griffith and John Barrymore. Once the scripts were complete, Dean left most of the actual work to his young assistant curators, Stephen V. Grancsay and Thomas T. Hoopes, who also appear in the films. A Visit to the Armor Galleries was especially popular and includes memorable scenes: a Gothic armor steps out of its vitrine to answer visitors' questions about the collection, a seesaw with a small child on one end and a medieval mail shirt on the other demonstrates the relatively modest weight of armor, and a fully armored knight on horseback gallops through Central Park, with Belvedere Castle (the park's weather station) rising picturesquely in the background. When actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr. viewed the film at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, he pronounced it "bully."
Dressing in Steel: Part One
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Dressing in Steel: Part Two
(00:20:04) 375 views
A Visit to the Armor Galleries
(00:30:21) 4843 views
Bashford Dean and the Creation of the Arms and Armor Department, 1904–1929
(00:30:12) 245 views
The Art of Arms and Armor: Challenges of Research, Display, and Education
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Curators, Collectors, and Dealers: The Growth of the Arms and Armor Collection, 1929 to the Present
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Shaffron Belonging to an Armor of Duke Nikolaus "the Black" Radziwill
Jousting armor (Rennzeug)
and matching half-shaffron
Shaffron of Ottheinrich, Count Palatine of the Rhine
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This artwork is not on display
Jousts were friendly contests fought by two mounted participants armed with lances, with the object of unseating the opponent or at least breaking one's lance squarely on the other contestant's shield or helmet. Well-trained horses for the joust were extremely expensive and were usually protected with armor. The shaffron was often "blind"––that is, the eyes were covered so as to prevent the horse from shying away at the opponent's approach. (The rondel attached to this example is a late nineteenth-century restoration.)
Ex Coll.: [Philibert Bachereau, Paris]; Constantine Ressman, Paris; Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Duc de Dino, Paris
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