The various pieces of armor and variety of weapons and firearms in this gallery represent the artistic merit and function of the weaponry of the past. From hunting to organized warfare and courtly life; form the ivory-inlaid German crossbow to the murderous Napoleonic swords, muskets and sabers on display, these important objects were created from exquisite woods and steel with silver inlay, gold, and other precious materials brought together by fine craftsmanship and beauty of form.
Weaponry of this distinction and caliber were rare even in their day. They were made by special order for members of the European Aristocracy, and are mostly to be found today preserved by their descendants in the Great Palaces of Europe. There are few museums with antique armor, weaponry and firearm collections on this side of the Atlantic, and these are usually gifts from the purchases of erudite collectors from the sales of ancestral heirlooms needed to meet heavy death duties levied on the wealthy since the late nineteenth century.
The Napoleonic weaponry and many of the drawings and prints in this exhibition, which illustrate the way the weapons were carried and worn, are selected from the large collection of Napoleonic material donated to the Museum by Kenneth Worcester Dow and Mary Mohan Dow.