The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Breastplate
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy
  • c. 1520
  • Steel and gold, blackened, etched and gilt
  • Weight: 4.4 kg
  • A214
  • European Armoury I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Breastplate, of rounded form with no medial ridge, long-waisted, with strong flange of triangular section at the neck. It is cut away at the sides at the waist. The gussets are missing. Skirt of four lames; the upper edges of the bottom three are shaped in the centre as pairs of opposed dolphins. The skirt has been considerably altered at some time and the twin dolphins were probably cut off the top lame at that point. The skirt was originally fully lined as is shown by the position of the lining rivets.

    The surface is rough from the hammer, blackened, and is decorated in the centre of the chest with the figure of St. Barbara, etched and gilt in a vesica; the slightly sunk borders of neck, arm-holes, sides and lames of the skirt are also etched and gilt with floral scrolls, and at the waist with scales like those on the dolphins.

    The breast is pierced with two holes for the bolts of the lance-rest.

    A214 is illustrated as the eighth cuirass among the drawings made by Antonio Dassi for the catalogue of the collection of Ambrogio Uboldo, preserved in the library of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Comte de Belleval; a sketch of A214 has been inserted into the MS. copy of Belleval's La Panoplie, 1881, in the Metropolitan Museum, New York; and beside it is a marginal note stating that it was formerly in the collection of the author and later passed to the Musée d'Artillerie, that is the Musée de l' Armée, Paris (S. Pyhrr, letter of 23rd May 1977).

    St. Barbara of Nicomedia, Santa aussiliatrice, was the patron saint of armourers and gunners, and of all who worked in danger of a violent death; hence her frequent delineation on armour.
    The etching of the right arm in the Museo Stibbert mentioned in J.A.A.S., VII, p. 202, as belonging to A214, is signed N.D. in minute letters (1917-18 Cat., No. 3154; Boccia, 1975 Cat., No. 133).