The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Cuirass
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1560
  • Iron or steel, gold, silver and copper alloy, embossed, blued and counterfeit-damascened
  • Weight: 1.56 kg, breastplate
    Weight: 1.245 kg, backplate
  • A218
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Parade cuirass of the finest quality, composed of breastplate of peascod form, flanged at the base and having turning-pins for the skirt; the neck flanged and roped; the gussets are missing from the arm-holes. The decoration consists of a frieze and three vertical bands embossed in low relief, the surface chased, plated and enriched by counterfeit-damascening both in gold and in silver, although only traces of the latter remain. In the middle, above, is embossed a figure standing upon a barred helmet and holding a cross (possibly symbolical of Christian Valour); on either side, at the top are two seated figures - the seated figure on the right side of the top of the breastplate represents Fortitude, that on the left represents Prudence (R. Lightbown, letter of 17 January 1985, quoting Tervarent, Attributs et symboles dans l' art profane, 1460-1600,1 I, 1959, pp. 271 and 406). In the centre is a cartouche (the central oval of which is now obliterated) and below this is a figure of Fame. On the bands on either side are embossed figures. The female figure in the right diagonal band of decoration on the breastplate, who has a cuirass beside her, presumably represents the Amazon Queen, Hippolyte, the other may represent Plenty. The background is matt gilt, and the spaces are filled in with trophies of arms and festoons. The embossed bands are bordered with delicate arabesques damascened in gold; the intervening panels are plain with a blued surface.
    Thbackplate, like the breastplate is decorated with three vertical, embossed bands containing (in the middle) Pomona, or Ceres, in a striped skirt; beneath her feet is an oval cartouche piqué with silver damascened with a mountainous landscape with buildings, and a climbing figure; below this again is a putto blowing a trumpet, and Fame; on the left band is Hercules seated; on the right band a semi-nude female figure; flanged at the base and bordered with brass-headed rivets for the lining band, the edges being turned under and roped; there is a hook on the right side to connect with the breastplate; the buckle on the left shoulder is a restoration. The raised ridges of both breast and back each contain a row of rivets down them, presumably either for a lining or for fixing the plate more securely in the bed of pitch while the metal was being worked.