The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Partial armour
  • Partial armour
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy, probably Milan
  • c. 1570
  • Steel, copper alloy, gold and leather, etched, embossed, engraved and gilt
  • Weight: 2.35 kg, burgonet
    Weight: 1 kg, gorget
    Weight: 3.51 kg, breast
    Weight: 1.9 kg, back
    Weight: 0.98 kg, tasset (right)
    Weight: 0.807 kg, tasset (left)
    Weight: 2.78 kg, arm (right)
    Weight: 2.76 kg, arm (left)
    Weight: 0.53 kg, gauntlet (right)
    Weight: 0.6 kg, gauntlet (left)
  • A54
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Throughout the 16th century northern Italy produced many thousands of armours, not just for its own use but also for export throughout Europe. This armour illustrates very well the standard design of Italian field armours of the second half of the 16th century. With a breastplate pierced to accept a lance-rest and having asymmetrical pauldrons, this one was clearly intended primarily for mounted use, worn by a heavy cavalryman or ‘lancer’. Armours of a very similar form were however also worn by soldiers fighting on foot, even on ships. Two portraits of the Venetian patrician and galley captain Andrea Barbarigo (killed at the Battle of Lapanto in 1571) by Tintoretto and assistants, feature an closely comparable armour of the same style and of a very similar level of quality; these works are now in the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond.

    This style of armour, characterised by etched bands filled with dense groupings of weapons, trophies of arms, musical instruments and other objects, and by the prominent volutes containing Roman heads in profile on the pauldrons, was often termed ‘Pisan’ in the 19th and 20th centuries, although most examples were made in Milan. The type is a fascinating demonstration of the way in which the same style could be executed to drastically different standards, some very high (and consequently more expensive) and many other quite low. If this armour is compared for example to two other armours of this style in the Wallace Collection, inv. nos. A55 and A56, it is not only easier to appreciate the high quality of A54, it is also possible to see how a single decorative style was implemented at different levels of cost and quality. The higher quality of A54 is displayed by the skilful hammer-work wherein the armourer had devoted time and attention to details such as the embossed cabling which forms the inner border of the etched bands on the cuirass, vambraces and gauntlets and the volutes on the pauldrons; the clean, bold roping of the turned edges; and the sharpness and depth of the etching. Some armours of this quality were also partially gilt, such as the one in the Barbarigo portraits, although no parts of A54 bear any traces of gold apart from the associated helmet, which is not original to the rest of the armour.