The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Breastplate
  • Breastplate
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy, possibly Milan
  • 1550 - 1620
    1550 (upper part)
    1620 (lower part)
  • Iron or steel, embossed and etched
  • Weight: 1.92 kg
  • A217
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Breastplate, a composite made up of two parts differing markedly in design and workmanship. The upper part is finely embossed in relief with the standing figures of the Virgin and Child, between St. Jerome on her left and St. Christopher carrying the infant Christ, on her right; above, near the neck, is a decorative frieze embossed with a mask from whose mouth springs flowing foliage involving two birds; the neck is strongly flanged and roped, with pairs of rivets on either side for the shoulder straps (the buckles reproduced by Skelton no longer remain). There are considerable traces of gilding. It is also flanged and roped at the neck and gussets, the latter being etched with flowing foliage on a granulated ground. The etching on the gussets matches that on the lower lames.
    The lower part consists of fivlames in the manner of an anime cuirass, etched with bands of conventional leaves in the North Italian style, and with a central band of trophies on a granular ground. It is slightly peascod in form, and down the centre (broken in places) is a vertical line of rivets like a waistcoat cuirass.


    The embossing of the upper part is accomplished work of the best Italian style of the middle of the sixteenth century and might be the work of the Negroli of Milan.
    The breastplate as it now exists presents a puzzle. The lower lames have been much altered, the upper edge of three of them are notched above the rivets, the other two are plain. The three uppermost lames show holes on the inside for articulation by straps, as one would expect, but not the lower two. That the breastplate has long been as it is at present is shown by Skelton's engraving of 1830. The obvious attempt to match the roping of the gussets and neck suggests that the additions of the lower lames may have been made no more than twenty-five years after the upper part was produced.
    Boccia, Rossi & Morin (Armi e armature Lombarde, 1980, Pl. 147) date the upper part about 1550 and the lower part 1565-70, but it is difficult to accept these dates, particularly that the lower section could be earlier than 1600. The bottom lame and second lame from the bottom are not specially shaped around the articulating rivets, as are those above them.