Helmet, early 17th centuryJapan, Edo periodSigned Saotome Iechika, active 17th centuryIron, gold, wood, lacquerThe Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Trust Fund 2009.60a,bThis helmet is a tour de force with 124 plates (typical range: 28 to 62 plates) arching to a dramatically high point to form a so-called "acorn-shaped" (shiinari) helmet. It bears the signature of Saotome Iechika, an armorer associated with a famous familial guild active in Hitachi Province from the late 16th century onward. The helmet sports a gilt forecrest (maedate) in the shape of a praying mantis as well as a highly ornate gilt finial (tehen). Helmets in unusual shapes or with fantastic maedate became fashionable among ranking warriors during the 16th century. While it has been suggested that this custom arose as warriors sought to create a fearsome impression on the battlefield, many surviving helmets are far from frightening and reveal, instead, the artistic and fanciful inclinations of the craftsmen and their clients.