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A Dragonfly Helmet from 17th Century Japan

(Photo: Minneapolis Institute of Arts)

In the battlefields of Edo Japan, it was necessary for warlords to mark their identity so that their troops would be able to locate them. Elaborate helmets were often the solution to this problem. One particularly fancy example of this fashion trend was this dragonfly helmet, which is now owned by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Dr. Matthew Welch of the museum describes it:

Craftsmen covered the underlying iron bowl with papier-mâché over a wooden framework to form the body of the insect, and covered it with lacquer. Wooden wings flare to the sides, while the insect’s eyes are rendered as large golden orbs. In Japan, the dragonfly symbolizes focused endeavor and vigilance because of its manner of moving up, down, and sideways while continuing to face forward. Ancient texts refer to Japan as Akitsushima (Island of the Dragonflies), because of their abundance. They were thought to be the spirits of rice, because they were often seen hovering above the flooded rice fields.

-via Slate Vault


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