The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Partial armour
  • Partial armour
  • Possibly Pompeo della Cesa (c. 1537-8 - 1610)
  • Milan, Italy
  • c. 1587
  • Medium-carbon steel, air-cooled, gold, copper alloy, leather, velvet, gold braid and silk, etched and gilt
  • Weight: 17.56 kg, total weight
  • A60
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
  • Although it was made for a powerful German nobleman, the large garniture to which these pieces belong is in fact not German at all, but Italian. It was made for Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, Prince Bishop of Salzburg (1559-1617). The identity of the maker is uncertain, although it might have been created in the workshop of Pompeo della Chiesa, foremost of the late sixteenth-century Italian armourers and master of a very large operation in Milan. The garniture, parts of which are now also in Munich and St Petersburg, was probably made around the time that its owner took up the See of Salzburg, in 1587. It provided pieces for all primary war and sporting roles, including complete armours for the field, joust, free-tourney, and foot combat at the barriers. The Wallace Collection elements comprise the cuirass and close-helmet for the joust and the arm and shoulder defences for foot combat at the barriers, and would never have all been worn together.

    The entire surface of this very costly armour has been lavishly etched and gilt. The decorative scheme is cleverly comprised of an alternating system of bands in which one band-type, with a gilt background and blackened figures –scrolling foliage and cartouches containing Classical figures– is flanked on either side with a contrasting type having a blackened background and gilded trophies of Greco-Roman-style arms and armour. All breastplates belonging to this garniture, including the one in the Wallace Collection, also display the device of a castle placed centrally, just below the neckline. This appears to be an unusual form of armourer’s mark, which appears on a number of other Milanese armours dating from the same period. The Raitenau armour is therefore not the work of Pompeo himself. The etched decoration however is closely similar in style to that found on another, contemporary armour in the Wallace Collection (A59), which bears the signature ‘Pompeo’, centrally, just below the neckline.