The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Parts of an armour
  • Parts of an armour
  • Wolfgang Grosschedel (1517 - 1562) , Armourer
  • Landshut, Germany
  • c. 1560
  • Steel, copper alloy and leather, etched
  • Weight: 1 kg, pauldron (left)
    Weight: 1.49 kg, pauldron (right)
    Weight: 1.55 kg, tasset and poleyn (left)
    Weight: 1.59 kg, tasset and poleyn (right)
    Weight: 0.66 kg, gauntlet
  • A38
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • These assorted armour parts all belong to an extensive garniture which was once in the Imperial Armoury at Vienna, the original owner of which remains unknown. As well as serving the standard infantry and light, medium and heavy cavalry functions, by means of interchangeable ‘double pieces’, or ‘pieces of exchange, this armour once also included all the parts needed for sporting combat in various forms of joust and tourney. Other pieces of this armour are now in Kraków, Philadelphia, Worcester (Massachusetts) and Paris. Once removed from their historic location, extensive armours like this one often became split up and spread across the world, as different parts were sold or otherwise removed at different times.

    The Wallace Collection parts comprise a pair of shoulder plates (pauldrons), a besagew or under-arm guard, probably for the right side, a right gauntlet, and a pair of laminated thigh-guards and knee-plates (poleyns) .

    The pauldrons are intended for the joust of peace in the German fashion, or Gestech. The right pauldron retains its heavy reinforcing plate at the front, while at the back it is fitted with a special plate which is designed to collapse upwards when the butt of the lance is taken up under the arm in preparation to strike the opponent.

    The besagew would have been worn in several of the battlefield configurations of the armour, while the long articulated leg defences were designed for infantry and light cavalry use.

    Finally the gauntlet is of a special form developed for the ‘free tourney’, a form of sporting combat on horseback conceived to enact the ideal heavy cavalry fight, in which two teams first charge each other with lances before reengaging with swords. The armour for this form of tournament was designed to look superficially like war equipment, but it had subtle differences which increased the amount of protection afforded to the wearer. The gauntlet is a good illustration of this concept. The finger plates are shaped to resemble the individual finger assemblies typical of field gauntlets, but in fact they are of a more protective, but less dextrous mitten construction. Also the gauntlet’s thumb-piece includes a carefully shaped sleeve which completely envelopes the tip of the wearer’s thumb. This is a feature unique to gauntlets for the free tourney. It provides extra protection in the event of the wearer’s sword hand being crushed against the opponent’s armour, quite a common occurrence in this form of combat. This particular tourney gauntlet is also remarkable for having survived complete with its original leather lining glove.

    The decoration is restrained and yet extremely elegant, taking the form of strapwork bands filled with arabesques set against a ground of very fine, twisting scrolls. Unusually, the knee plates are etched over there whole surface, as are the elbow pieces now in Massachusetts.