Arts of War

Artistry in Weapons across Cultures

 Artistry in Weapons across Cultures


See the online exhibit

October 18, 2014–August 18, 2019

War is a persistent attribute of human cultures through time, and weapons are crafted with a practical, and deadly, intent. Nearly as pervasive as war itself, is the practice of decorating objects used to wage it. Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures was a Peabody Museum exhibition that presented the varied beauty and craftsmanship of war objects drawn from cultures around the world. From maces, clubs, daggers, and spears, to shields, helmets, and entire suits of armor, this exhibition offered museum-goers more than 150 striking examples of weapons that were also extraordinary works of art.

What would compel a warrior to deliberately imbue his weapon with beauty that stands in such stark contrast to its intended purpose? And why were war objects so much more common and elaborately decorated than those crafted for peace-making? Arts of War: Artistry in Weapons across Cultures probed intriguing questions, unveiled the stories behind some of the most stunning war objects ever created, and explored the passion and purpose of the people who made them.

Curated by Steven LeBlanc, Ph.D., archaeologist and Director of Collections (retired), Peabody Museum.