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July 16, 2017

Siberian Bear-Hunting Armor From the 1800s

Was this full-body spiked armor actually used for hunting bears?

It’s hard to say. First of all currently there is one suit, its owners call it the Wildman suit. It is located in the The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. This particular suit is part of an exhibit called Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision (Witnesses). This exhibit contains artifacts/artwork from the collections of surrealist artists such as Andre Breton and Max Ernst. This exhibit is meant to be similar to a seventeenth century Cabinet of curiosities also called wunderkammer.

These classic exhibits displayed artifacts from all over the world. Surrealist wunderkammers typically disregard the historical context of the item and instead place and describe these objects in order to create “visual puns”.

So while this suit might be authentic, given it’s inclusion in a cabinet of curiosity and it’s previous ownership by a surrealist it’s hard to say if it really was a suit of armor used for bear hunting.

There has been some uncertainty over this object’s culture of origin and its originally intended purpose. While it is now thought to have originated in eighteenth-, or nineteenth-century Germany or Switzerland, this costume presumably represents a folk figure seen in the Vogel Gryff Festival in Basel, but it has also been considered a bear hunting costume.

Based on this, the suit could have been used for hunting bears, but also just as likely was used as a Wilder Mann costume in the Vogel Gryff Festival (Vogel Gryff in Basel).



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