Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection

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John Beaufain Irving (1826-1877), American
The Halberdier— XVIth Century, 1874
OIL ON PANEL, 14 x 10 inches
Gift of Horace Fairbanks

Halberdiers are foot soldiers named for their weapon, a long-handled poleax used against horsemen. In the mod­ern era, the halberdier's role is largely ceremonial, most famously serving as the Pope's Vatican guard. In medieval and Renaissance times, however, halberdiers were cele­brated warriors who were the primary defense against armored cavalry before the introduction of firearms.

Appropriately, John Beaufain Irving's halberdier is a man of great swagger. His brilliant red sash, bravado pose, and casual demeanor convey a sense of his proud position. Irving was well known for his historical genre scenes such as this one, though at least one of his peers, John F. Weir, criticized his compositions as overly the­atrical when they were exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876.

 
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