The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Cuirass
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy
  • c. 1580
  • Steel, etched
  • Height: 50.8 cm
    Weight: 4.1 kg
  • A224
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • 'Waistcoat' cuirass, breastplate of peascod shape formed of two plates opening down the front in the manner of a doublet. Backplate made in three pieces, the side plates hinged to a central plate and riveted to the two halves of the breastplate; the side plates being kept in position at the top by studs engaged in slots. The breastplate is fastened in front by a turning-pin at the top and a hook-and-eye on the waistplate at the bottom. There is a row of conical steel studs down the front to simulate buttons. The high neck is formed of two laminated gorget-plates, divided in three, working on sliding rivets in front. One plate at the back of the neck is restored. Single skirt plate.

    The decoration consists of vertical bands, deeply etched with trophies of arms, urns, cornucopias, etc., on a granular ground, in the so-called 'Pisan' style. The central band of etching on breast and backplate widens at the neck where it contains two winged harpies in front and a mounted knight in armour on the back. The skirt is etched with a large acanthus pattern.

    A somewhat similar cuirass was in the Litchfield Collection, U.S.A., and two in the Hermitage at Leningrad (Gille, Pl. LXXXII). An interesting example of a 'waistcoat' cuirass, formerly in the Consul Leiden (sold Cologne, 1934, lot 126) and Hearst Collections (sold Fischer, Zurich, May, 1939, lot 59), and now in the Kienbusch Collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, shows a mixture of the German and Italian styles in its decoration. It is not signed but is inscribed with the name of its owner, a Cologne ship's captain, Kunz (Cons) von Unckell (Cat., No. 29, Pl. XXX). and is dated 1571.

    'Waistcoat' cuirasses of this type seem sometimes to have been intended to be worn without other armour except perhaps an open helmet, A224 is one example. Others, Wallace Collection A226 for example, have slots for the attachment of pauldrons. The Italian garniture of Don Juan of Austria in Vienna (A1048-9) includes a 'waistcoat' cuirass. A long list of comparable pieces is given in the Kienbusch Catalogue under No. 125. Two further examples are in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad (Z .O. Nos. 3046 and 3292).