Samurai Armor Exhibit Opens at MFA
We talk to the museum’s senior curator of Japanese art for insight on the life of a samurai.
April 15, 2013
Opened yesterday at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, offers a glimpse into the life of Japan’s most illustrious warriors. Here, the museum’s senior curator of Japanese art, Anne Nishimura Morse, breaks down the significance of the pieces on display, some of which date back to the 12th century.
Tell us about the items in the exhibit, and how they were procured.
ANNE NISHIMURA MORSE: We are fortunate to be the first venue in the United States to present this exhibition, featuring one of the world’s best collections of samurai armor. Organized by collector Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, the exhibition is a perfect complement to the MFA’s collection of Japanese art, considered the best outside of Japan. MFA Director Malcolm Rogers first learned about the collection from a colleague in Texas, where the Barbier-Muellers are based, and was inspired to bring it to Boston.
How did the collectors’ interest in samurai armor begin?
ANM: Gabriel Barbier-Mueller has been fascinated by samurai armor since adolescence and acquired his first piece in the early 1990s. He and his wife Ann have continued to expand their collection, admiring the sculptural quality of the objects and the compelling imagination required to create them. This fascination led them to create The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection, in Dallas, Texas.
Of the 140 pieces in the exhibit, which are most special to you?
ANM: The Mōri ensemble, formerly owned by the Yoshiki branch of the Mōri clan, a prominent family whose origins date to the 12th century.
What will the experience of the exhibit be like for visitors?
ANM: I hope that visitors will have fun with the exhibition, which includes 21 full suits of armor, elaborately decorated helmets and masks, and a trio of samurai on horses in mid gallop. It’s a show that has a real appeal for children and families.
What materials were used to make the armor?
ANM: Samurai armor is made up of a helmet, mask, chest armor, shoulder guards, sleeves, a skirt, thigh protection, and shin guards. Additional articles, including a jinbaori [surcoat], complete the set, which might weigh between 20 and 45 pounds. Originally the armor, very light when compared to a European or Persian armor, was made of small, perforated plates that were often lacquered and held together with colored lacing and silk cord. Iron, leather, brocade, and precious and semi-precious metals were often used.
BC: What weapons did a samurai carry on the battlefield?
ANM: The bow, or yumi, was associated with power in Japan. The first horse-mounted samurai warriors adopted the weapon and became expert archers. At the time, the term yumitori [archer] meant ‘warrior.’ Though archery eventually gave way to the use of firearms in combat, the bow continued to be venerated, and archery remained a martial art that every samurai was expected to master. The Portuguese, who landed on a small island south of Kyushu in 1543, brought firearms to Japan. Soon after the guns were introduced, gunsmithing and powdermaking expanded across the nation. Japanese blacksmiths, who were masters in the art of metalworking, quickly copied and adapted the guns.
2013 Audi S8: An “S” for the Best
Rev up the new year in a car that perfectly pairs style and power.
January 04, 2013
Audi aficionados knew exactly what was expected when the German purveyor of luxury cars announced their new line of “S” performance vehicles including the S6, S7 and S8, which is the company’s four-door breadwinner in terms of power output and performance. But how could that be with the fierce and mighty V10 being supplanted for a smaller, more efficient twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8? It’s called German evolution.
Audi changed degrees with enhancements to their renowned quattro all-wheel drive technology, presented fascinating new products like the Q7, R8, and A7, enriched their interior cabins from an already stellar platform, and introduced magnificent engineering technology to ensure that the driving experience is pleasurable and safe. Now, the 2013 S8 is a new topic of conversation. The twin-turbo, 4-liter V8 produces 520 horsepower, helping the aluminum space frame go from 0 MPH to 60 MPH in 3.9 seconds. Mate the powerplant with Audi’s 8-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with manual shift mode, and the vehicle achieves 15-city MPG and 26-highway MPG. Cylinder on Demand also aids in this mileage by transitioning eight cylinders to four cylinders when full power is not required. For example, fuel reduction at 55 MPH is 12%.
As for the interior, I felt special to say the least as the 22-way, diamond cross-stitched sport seats massaged me pleasantly. My mocha leather cabin was infused with a plethora of carbon fiber to intensify the level of craftsmanship of this German touring sedan, including the gear selector, seatbacks, dash, and center console. As I gripped the thick 3-spoke leather wheel and ignited the red Start/Stop button, the needles on the gauges rotated, the LCD screen rose from its embedded position, and the acoustic lenses from Bang & Olufsen’s big-ticket, concert-themed sound system emerged out of the dash. LED lights can also brighten up the cabin when needed.
Audi Connect, launched in the “A” cars, uses an array of various multi-media technologies along with Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) for driver convenience. MMI is one of the most advanced telematics systems in the auto industry. When inputting the address in the Google Earth navigation system—which displays from the aforementioned LCD screen—superior visual computing takes over and guidance is enhanced by displaying satellite and 3D images of buildings and places of interest, as well as “Street View.” Online searches also come from Google, just as on your smartphone or laptop, and you receive weather, gas prices, RSS news feeds, and sports scores. Speaking of your smartphone, up to eight devices can connect wirelessly and search the web by way of the S8’s T-Mobile-provided hotspot. The first six months of hotspot ownership are free, with a separate monthly fee charged thereafter.
Once you reach your destination and step out to look back at the vehicle, you know you have properly arrived. With a massive grille that dominates the fascia and front air intakes, the larger 21-inch 5-star bladed rims and matching aluminum optic side view mirrors, and quad exhaust, this is not a typical A8 but an “S” driven by the very best. All you need to justify your $110,000 purchase.
2013 Maserati GranTurismo Sport: Disciplined Advantage
The GranTurismo effectively combines sports car and style.
November 13, 2012
It was a sunny and breezy day in the Sonoma and Napa Valley region of Northern California for a drive in the shapely 2013 GranTurismo Sport by Maserati in Blu Sofisticato. The Italian purist provided highlight after highlight during my enlightened test drive through the vineyards—especially since the coupe speaks elegance and dominance simultaneously.
With uphill bending roads and open straightaways, I was able to truly understand Maserati’s new GT. And that’s just what the car is—a GranTurismo whose mission is not fixated on all-out acceleration or to become a full-fledged sports car, yet hones the ability to go fast intelligently. The GT Sport’s interior focuses on prestige and character rather than urgency, as demonstrated by its supple leathers, refined woods, interchangeable trims, and contrast stitching.
Detail is especially focused in a few key areas. The new steering wheel features deep thumb indentations that allow you to grip the wheel properly. Leather can be selected in any interior hue Maserati offers, while the ring material can be wood, Alcantara, or carbon fiber with Trofeo shift paddles that can be ordered in carbon fiber. The GT Sport’s new leather seats are designed in-house and feature integrated headrests for both front and rear passengers. A Bose audio system and a multi-media system with navigation and Bluetooth complete the technology package.
As for the body, it’s pretty much the same except for a few accent pieces. The rear tail lamps now have smoked lenses, new front parking sensors have been added to the aerodynamically enhanced front end, the headlamps have new LED daytime running lights, and the side grilles have been enlarged.
Under the hood, Maserati’s venerable 4.7-liter V8 remains, but with a slight power increase to 454 horsepower. And although it’s only 10 added horsepower, I certainly felt the difference from 2012’s GranTurismo S—lighter 20-inch Astro rims wrapped in staggered Pirelli P Zero tires offered amazing stability and grip, while specially-designed anodized blue Brembo six-piston calipers provided superb stopping power.
While thoughts of serenity urged me to drive more like a chauffeur, that notion played second fiddle to exploring the depths of the “sports” button while pushing all 454 horses to the limit. See, Maserati’s “sports” engagement alters the vehicle in five key areas simultaneously. They say this one optimal setting works for their customers. Others may beg to differ since drive style is so random from person to person. But whatever your preferred driving style may be, one thing is certain—the GranTurismo effectively combines sports car and style. Pricing starts at $129,500 after a destination and gas-guzzler tax.
Kristin Paton's Chalet-Chic Shop
Revel in velvet, vintage leathers, and cashmere at Paton’s lush new store.
October 08, 2012
Paton reupholstered this antique settee for her new home store in Cambridge.
Interior designer Kristin Paton doesn’t need to say that she’s just come off a big travel year, including trips to Italy, Paris, and England, as it is obvious from the pieces in her recently opened home store in Cambridge. A delicate pagoda birdcage shares space with a trio of curious monkeys and vintage wine barrels repurposed into stools. Located on a pretty, quiet street a few blocks from Harvard Square, the chic store is stocked with items handpicked from vintage stores and flea markets in Paris, London, and the US. “I try to focus on what designers might need at the last minute, or on what locals are looking for,” says Paton. To this end Paton, along with VP of retail and product development Peter Griglik, her longtime friend, has collected pieces such as throw pillows and sleek lacquer candlesticks. The store recently started selling Ralph Lauren lighting, since lamps tend to be popular lastminute items for designers and homeowners looking to quickly spruce up a room, Paton says. She also sells furniture, such as an antique settee that still has its original finish but was reupholstered in a linen fabric with a tape detail. This fall we are coveting the chocolate-brown velvet settee, with bronze nail heads and alligator-embossed leather on the arms and base. 152 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, 617-491-7100; kristin patonhome.com
A Desert Island Spa Sanctuary
Sink into a spiritual bath filled with soothing water and tropical flora at Aruba's ZoiA Spa.
September 23, 2012
The Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino recently revamped its ZoiA Spa and we couldn’t resist flying down for a quick visit. The new spa’s signature service is the Spirit Ritual, two hours of pure bliss that begins on the massage table and ends in a luxurious custom bath. For the massage, we chose the hot stone treatment, which couples organic oils and basalt river stones to work out any kinks or city stress you may be holding on to. According to our masseuse, the hot stones are believed to naturally flush toxins from your body. One thing is for sure: your entire body is left supple and utterly relaxed—and ready for the spiritual bath that’s to come.
Baths are offered in seven colors, each paired with a mantra. The idea is to select the mantra that speaks to you most. We chose the red bath, for strength; the mantra of the red bath is “I need to regenerate my strength. I want to live and to take care of myself and my health.” Each bath is accompanied by a different tea and light spa snack. We enjoyed sorrel tea and ripe red fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and watermelon during our vermillion-hued bath. Tubs are filled with warm water and fresh, local flowers, such as the clusters of tiny faya lobi, tuturutu kòrá, and striking red bird of paradise that bobbed on the surface of our bath.
For the next hour, your only job is to clear your mind and soak in the energy. It often seems impossible to relax in the city, but at ZoiA, it's the only thing to do. All of the teas, flowers, and essential oils are from Dinah Veeris, a renowned herbalist based in the nearby island of Curaçao. ZoiA and Veeris work together to develop each bath recipe, ensuring a seamless experience. At the end of the day, it’s the little details like hand-blended herbal teas and bathwater that’s been warmed to the perfect temperature that make all the difference on the journey to total relaxation. J.E. Irausquin Blvd #85, Palm Beach, Aruba, Dutch Caribbean, 800-633-7313
2013 Range Rover Gets Major Updates
New model is lighter, stronger, but still prestigious.
September 17, 2012
Land Rover’s iconic Range Rover has received major updates and changes for its 2013 model, which will debut at the Paris Auto Show in late September. One of the more significant revisions is the adaptation of an all-aluminum unibody that is 39% lighter than the outgoing steel body of previous generations. Contingent on the market, the new Range Rover will see reduced weight of up to 926 pounds. In the United States, a naturally aspirated 5-liter V8 drops roughly 700 pounds. Based on the laws of gravity, this re-engineering technique makes the luxury British SUV faster, stronger, and more agile with greater levels of ride comfort, refinement, and control.
Also retuned is the four-corner air suspension, which according to Land Rover, allows for improved cornering and steering as well as the pairing of the motor with new eight-speed ZF automatic transmissions. The next generation of Rover’s Terrain Response, which examines the conditions and surfaces of the road and automatically chooses the best settings for the terrain, is yet another premium upgrade to the Range.
The interior has been stretched a bit to permit for over 4.7 inches more legroom than the 2012 model, while the option of a two-place rear seating package adds dimension to the interior execution. Rounding out the offerings for the all-new 2013 Range Rover are standard sound systems by British audio maker MeridianTM; a split power folding upper and lower tailgate; and intelligent safe driver assistance technologies. U.S. deliveries are currently scheduled for December.
2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Redefines Luxury SUVs
Luxury SUV line introduces the ultimate in family cars.
August 21, 2012
When we were invited to join Mercedes-Benz on a recent vehicle launch program, I was given the assignment and immediately let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of testing and reviewing a super-luxurious vehicle from the German lineup. I envisioned a sleek autobahn killer such as their SL550 Roadster. Then I discovered the invitation was for the international launch of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV. Was I disappointed? Not in the least. Practically speaking, a luxury SUV with a third row was ideally suited for me. Who better to evaluate such a vehicle than the father of five kids involved in soccer, football, karate, gymnastics, and trumpet lessons?
The GL-Class comes in four levels including: the GL350 BlueTEC 4MATIC with its 3.0-liter single turbo diesel V6 producing a solid 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque; the GL450 with a 4.6-liter biturbo gasoline V8 capable of 362 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque; a GL550 with its direct-injection 4.6-liter biturbo V8 cranking out an impressive 429 horsepower along with 516 pound-feet of torque; and the GL63 AMG with its beastly direct-injection 5.5-liter biturbo V8 that pumps out 550 beastly horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque—all of which will undoubtedly take care of getting the kids to practice and rehearsals in record-setting time.
But most intriguing of all was the GL’s third row seating. Yes, the famed "third" row seating that other manufacturers tout but fall short on. Was the GL's third row actually usable and, dare I say, comfortable? To answer this, I subjected myself to the third row in a GL350 while our driver hurriedly shuttled me to the airport—a drive filled with sudden braking, responsive acceleration, evasive highway maneuvers, and above-average speeds. Throughout this adventure, I experienced an unexpected level of comfort in the third row. The ride was so smooth that I failed to realize the actual speeds at which we were traveling. This was a true testament to the GL350’s performance and the very comfortable and enjoyable GL-Class third row.
The GL-Class does, however, suffer from what I would refer to as “multiple personality disorder.” The chiseled, aggressive front facade is bold, sporty, and athletic, while the flowing lines of the side profile comes across as sophisticated and modern. Its design will appeal to those sporty moms and dads who still want to ride in style for a date-night out on the town.
Out of the three GL categories experienced, I was most impressed with the GL350. The GL450 and GL550 are also absolutely solid performers, but often with an entry-level vehicle, you feel as through you're sacrificing or settling. This is absolutely not true with the GL350, especially when you factor in standard features such as the ATTENTION ASSIST, created to alert the driver and prepare the brakes for maximum stopping power, and mbrace2, which provides an array of vehicle diagnostics and concierge services. And with the estimated 600-700 mile range from the 26-gallon fuel tank, you may start to walk with a certain swagger thanks to the fuel saving provided by the smooth and uncharacteristically quiet diesel.
Additionally, there are a host of attractive features, such as the panorama sunroof, massaging driver and passenger seats, power outlets for your road-trip devices, optional electronic folding rear seats, Active Parking Assist, and Active Blind Spot Assist.
The 2013 GL-Class goes on sale this September, with the GL350 hitting showrooms with a beginning MSRP of $62,400, while the GL450 starts at $63,900, and the GL550 comes in with a starting sticker of $86,900. The wicked GL63 AMG version will become available during the first quarter of 2013 with pricing not yet available.
2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider
Convertible version of the Spider offers top speed, retractable hard top.
July 11, 2012
They say things only get better with time, and McLaren proves the adage true with the announcement of a second all-new model to its line-up: the MP4-12C Spider, a convertible manipulation of the 12C. The lightweight Spider features a distinctive Retractable Hard Top (RHT) roof that folds and stows itself—theoretically making this vehicle a luxury coupe and performance convertible all in one.
Power emanates from a commissioned 616 horsepower 3.8-liter twin turbo V8 engine and is paired to a 7 Speed SSG dual-clutch transmission, which allows the British sports car to run 0-62 mph in 3.1 seconds and top out at 204 mph. Currently, orders can be placed for the $268,250 Spider from McLaren retailers across the globe with an expected delivery date in December or early January. During the Concept Car Lawn during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend, show-goers will be treated to an early viewing.
Celsius X VI II Releases Another Luxe Cell Phone
Company prepares for the debut of their second mobile device, designed to last a lifetime.
June 25, 2012
French company Celsius X VI II, which specializes in luxury mobile devices that combine 21st-century technology with centuries-old Swiss timekeeping, has recently released a limited-edition phone for $312,000.
Designed to last a lifetime, the company’s first model, LeDIX Origine, is already on the verge of selling out. Luckily, their latest creation, the LeDIX Furtif, will be available at the end of June for those looking to give their mobile device a luxury upgrade.
The first mobile phone with a carbon fiber structure, the highlight of the LeDIX Furtif is still the tourbillon timepiece. Using 330 of the phone’s 700 mechanical parts, the LeDIX Furtif features the world’s most off-centered flying tourbillon. Framed with six golden wings and protected by shock absorbers, the tourbillon engine is showcased through a sapphire crystal breastplate.
Celsius X VI II has eliminated any magnetic effects on the LeDIX Furtif for the highest possible accuracy. They have also developed the Remontage Papillon, a patented system engulfed in the hinge of the phone. The Remontage Papillon supplies the watch movement with an added three hours of power reserve each time the phone is opened.
Co-founder and co-CEO of Celsius X VI II, Edouard Maylan, cites the company’s goal as designing a technically superior phone with eternal value. Formed in 2006, the company started “with the dream of creating a completely micro-mechanical mobile phone, where every function of the mobile would operate mechanically through the sole human energy.” Maylan describes each device as “a piece of art taking six months [and] 35 craftsmen, watchmakers, and engineers to produce.”
The Furtif comes in three eight-piece limited editions, offered in a choice of pink gold, platinum, or black inserts. With the Furtif retailing for $315,000, Celsius is on their way to redefining the luxury phone market.
Rooms With a View of Art History
The Boston Athenaeum honors the cheeky paintings of George Deem with the first major museum exhibition of his works since his death.
June 25, 2012
Seven Vermeer Corners, George Deem
All artists take inspiration from those who worked before them, but none with the precision and wit of painter George Deem. Considered a Pop artist early in his career, Deem defied classification with his uncanny ability to take pieces of well-known paintings and recreate their light and feel, then meld them with scenes from other great works. The painter pulled inspiration from the paintings of renowned artists including John Singer Sargent, Gilbert Stuart, and Johannes Vermeer. The Boston Athenaeum is now holding an exhibit of 30 of Deem’s works in oil on canvas, wood panel, linen, and paper. In Seven Vermeer Corners (1999), Deem deftly reproduced segments from seven of the Dutch artist’s memorable paintings on one canvas without the figures for which the Old Master was so well known. Deem developed his interest in the classics in the 1950s while stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, a time when he had the opportunity to tour museums in London, Paris, Venice, and Florence. Although he went on to work closely with teachers who also taught the future leaders of the Pop Art and Abstract Expressionist movements in the US at The Art Institute of Chicago, he never let go of his fascination with great paintings of the past.
“George Deem: The Art of Art History” runs through September 1 at the Boston Athenaeum. 10 1/2 Beacon St., 617-227-0270.