The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Parts of an armour
  • Parts of an armour
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • France
  • c. 1630
  • Iron or steel, copper alloy and gold, etched and gilt
  • Weight: 3.43 kg, pauldron and integral vambrace
  • A64
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • These elements belong to a once very rich French armour, probably made for one of the French kings or at least a high-ranking member of the royal court. Although the Wallace Collection pieces are now very worn, the areas between plates, where the original finish has been protected, reveal that this armour was once very elaborately decorated with etching and gilding over all of its exterior surfaces. The decoration takes the form of a characteristically French design comprised, on the main surfaces, of entwined plants, vines, trophies of arms and Classical figures, all gilt, against a ‘pebbled’ and blackened background. The borders of the armour meanwhile are emphasised with narrow bands containing a running-vine pattern against a contrasting hatched ground.

    The complete armour of which these pieces were a part was designed for heavy cavalry combat, the domain in the 17th century of the ‘cuirassier’, sometimes still armed with the knightly lance but increasingly after c. 1610 with firearms. Some other pieces of the armour remain in Paris, in the collections of the Musée de l’Armée. The Paris pieces comprise the close-helmet, cuirass, and rear plate of the gorget. Part of the right tasset, the mate to the left in the Wallace Collection, is now in the Museo Stibbert in Florence. The whereabouts of the front plate of the gorget, left pauldron, left vambrace and gauntlets, if they survive, are unknown.