Perspective: Musings On A Mace

May 8, 2019

In an attempt to escape this past brutal winter, my son and I braved the elements to visit the Art Institute of Chicago. Besides Chinese New Year activities, we admired the armor in the Deering Family Galleries.  


"What's that?" my son asked. 


It was a mace. After explaining that it was used in battle to bash opponents over the head, my knowledge was all used up. Swords, lances and firearms get more exhibition space. Perhaps maces were not used that much in battle? 


Some quick online research revealed that the mace is really a very ancient weapon used by numerous civilizations in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Far from being medieval, it was developed during the Stone Age, and used throughout human history.  


In medieval times both foot soldiers and knights on horseback used the mace. The trench raiding clubs used during World War I were modern reconfigurations, and somehow in the Art Institute, I could not help making an association between the ancient mace and the police clubs used to subdue civil rights protesters. Perhaps this mental leap was due to Dawoud Bey's Night Coming Tenderly, Black exhibit. In addition to his own work, Bey selected photographs for a side display. Among these, Gordan Parks "Battered Man" is an eloquent testimony of the mace's handiwork, and its role in subduing and silencing those voices that threaten authority and the status quo. 


Who could imagine that on a frigid afternoon, a mace would inspire such myriad musings? 


I’m Frances Jaeger, and that’s my perspective.