Because war has often been the preserve of the privileged castes and because they above all strive to distinguish themselves from civilians and display their dazzling triumphs, soldiers have always had a taste for finery and are attached to the beauty, quality and even opulence of the weapons, items of equipment and accessories designed to mark their status as well as serving a functional purpose.

This desire for ostentation and the taste for the superfluous, which still characterise officers and lower ranks alike, have taken various forms depending on the historical period, the soldiers’ position and the nature of the political regimes that arm them. Far from being a whim to which the most affluent soldiers treat themselves, luxury is part of their identity and indicates their rank, the degree of authority that their status confers upon them, and their relative proximity to the supreme power. Objects, insignia and precious attributes are also signs of valour and mark the recognition that their great deeds have earned them.

This new exhibition at the Musée de l’Armée invites visitors to discover these exceptional artefacts. Combining historical, anthropological and aesthetic approaches, the exhibition highlights the way martial splendour contributes to the radiance and legitimacy of political power, and how it rewards merit and satisfies the desire for assimilation or distinction within the group.