The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Mail shirt
  • Mail shirt
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Germany
  • mid 15th century
  • Iron and copper alloy
  • Length: 72.4 cm, front
    Length: 35.5 cm, back
    Diameter: 0.102 cm, links
    Weight: 5.61 kg
  • A5
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Even more than Wallace Collection A4, which appears to have had its sleeves removed for later use, the current state of this fragment of a mail shirt suggests that it was used as a convenient source for mail fabric which was then used to make supplementary defences for a later 15th- or 16th-century armour. Not only have the sleeves been removed, but also has the entire rear portion of the garment below the middle of the back. This large panel of mail could have been used to quickly make up a number of smaller parts to cover the gaps in plate armour.

    Of course it is impossible to determine when the cutting up of this mail shirt took place. Although it might have occurred between c. 1450 and 1600, another possibility is that the garment remained largely whole until the 19th century, when it was cut up by a collector or dealer who needed mail to augment the display of a plate armour. This idea is perhaps supported by the fact that this piece was once a very high-quality example. It carries a number of stamped maker’s links, and the densely woven collar of smaller links retains part of a decorative yellow-metal border. A number of armours in the Wallace Collection were augmented with cannibalised mail fragments in modern times, and some retain them in the displays today. However none appear to match this somewhat forlorn looking piece.