The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Grandguard
  • Possibly Jörg Sorg II (c. 1522) , Etcher
  • Augsburg, Germany
  • c. 1550
  • Steel and gold, etched and gilded
  • Weight: 3.969 kg
  • A250
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Grandguard for the joust, of bright steel, formed of two parts bolted together. The upper part replaces the upper bevor of the helmet, enclosing the throat, the right side of the neck and the whole of the visor, having holes which correspond with the pivots of the latter. On the right side is a hinged window pierced with ten holes and etched with a star-shaped floral design. The left shoulder-piece is attached by two large bolts and nuts. On the left side, on the shoulder, is a small lug accommodating a rectangular slot for attachment of an extension plate to guard the turning joint of the left upper arm. There are two further holes for bolts, one of which is covered by the shoulder-plate and fulfils no function in its present position.
    The borders of both parts are decorated with bands of etched arabesque ornament on a granular ground, which shows traces of gilding.

    At least five major variants of this design are recorded: 1) That on A250 is identical to that on some pieces for the joust in the Royal Armouries (II.145; Dufty & Reid, 1968, Pl. XXXV), a helmet, breast, left tasset, left pauldron, left arm, guard of the vambrace (pasguard), and lance-rest. In all probability the breastplate, tassets, and arm would have served for either the German or Italian tilt. The guard of the vambrace is probably that used for the Italian tilt. In addition to this the Royal Armouries has the right plate of the rear arcon of the saddle (VI.377). Another guard of the vambrace, probably in this case for the German tilt, is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (14.25.875). A single lame from a pauldron formerly in the Metropolitan Museum ( 29.158.354) was sold at Parke Bernet, New York, 15 November 1956, lot 175 (S. Pyhrr, letter of 3 December 1979). The skull and lower bevor of a Mantelhelm with a similar decoration is in the Museo Stibbert, Florence (1917-18 Cat., No. 3242). A half-shaffron of this design in the Odescalchi collection (1619) bears on its escutcheon the arms of Hurtado de Mendoza, but this is probably a later addition. A Stechtartsche for the tilt in the German fashion, which may have belonged to this garniture, is also in the Metropolitan Museum (04.3.105). 2) A second similar design is that shown on the armour of Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba, in his portraits formerly thought to be by Titian and painted in 1548 (O. Fischel, Titian, Klassiker der Kunst, [1924], nos. 154 and 155). It differs from the Wallace Collection pattern in that the narrow bands edging the main bands contain half quatrefoils projecting into the band alternately from the inner edge and the outer edge. The only surviving pieces of armour of this design known to the present writer are a vamplate in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris (K.Po.2334) and a left fore-arcon in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (29.158.397). The very poor quality of the etching with its unequally dotted ground makes it unlikely that either of these pieces belonged to the Duke. H. E. Wethey considers the portraits of the Duke in question to be probably Flemish c. 1560. It is not certain that the portrait by Titian destroyed in the El Prato fire of 1604 either showed the Duke in armour or was painted as early as 1548. (The Painting of Titian, II, The Portraits, London 1971, p. 151, Cat. No. X-3, pl. 249, and p. 190, Cat. No. L-1, respectively; see also J. Shearman, The early Italian pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Cambridge 1983, pp. 273-4, Cat. No. 296.) The decoration of the armour in these portraits differs from the pattern on A250. 3) A backplate of a composite armour in the Metropolitan Museum (04.3.278) at first glance appears to be very similar to variant 2. In fact the quality of the etching is very much better; the half quatrefoils in the edging bands are placed closer together and are on a horizontally hatched ground. Finally, the points of the petals of the main flowers are much shorter and blunter than in any other version and have the appearance of a filbert in its husk. 4) A fourth design resembles the Wallace Collection pattern but the outer edges of the flanking bands have a series of small trilobate ornaments projecting into the plain surfaces. The ends of the compartments enclosing the flowers are not quite linked; there is a short gap between the points of adjacent compartments. Of this garniture the Metropolitan Museum has a breastplate and tassets on the composite armour mentioned above ( 04.3.278). A second breastplate of this design is in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich (A11973), and a close-helmet is in a Wiltshire church. 5) A fifth design resembles the Wallace Collection pattern but has small bell-like flowers projecting onto the plain surfaces from the outer edges of the bands of decoration. The Metropolitan Museum has a single front skirt lame of this design (14.25.880), and C. O. von Kienbusch had a tilt helmet, a breast and backplate, and a left gauntlet (Cat., No. 23, Pl. XXIII) now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Musée de l' Armée, Paris, has a vamplate of this design (K.Po.2341). A saddle with steels of this pattern was shown in the exhibition Armes anciennes des collections Suisses, Musée Rath, Geneva, May-August 1972, No. 538 (sold Christie's, London, 18 April 1985, lot 40, repr. in cat.). A helmet etched with this version of the pattern was in an English private collection, but, since it has roped edges rather than knurled ones, it cannot belong to this series.
    A garniture, etched with what appears to be one version of the pattern, was illustrated by Jörg Sorg II in his album of designs. It consists of a Feldküriss, Stechküriss, and a Stechzeug. Sorg noted that it was etched for the armourer Anton Peffenhauser in 1551 for Don Garcia de Toledo. The targe is definitely not the one now in the Metropolitan Museum. The garniture illustrated by Sorg probably belonged to Don Garcia de Toledo, Marqués de Villafranca, who was Viceroy of Sicily during part of 1565 and 1566, rather than to Don Garcia Alvarez de Toledo y Padilla who became a knight of St. John of Jerusalem in 1554 (Julio de Atienza, Nobiliario Espanol, 1954, p. 124). The Marqués de Villafranca was a cousin of the 3rd Duke of Alba.
    The Sorg drawing shows no decoration outside the bands and so cannot represent design 4 or 5. Design No. 3 cannot be that in Sorg's drawings because the points of its petals differ in shape from those he illustrates. Unfortunately, since Sorg does not indicate the pattern in the narrow bands flanking the main bands of his decoration, his drawing could represent either design No. 1 or No. 2. However, unless one assumes that the Duke of Alba was wearing his cousin's armour, which seems rather unlikely, it is probable that the pieces bearing design 1 belong to the armour of Don Garcia Alvarez de Toledo, Marqués de Villafranca (Becker, Gamber & Irtenkauf, 1980, fols. 19-20).
    For a brief biography of Jörg So, see A. von Reitzenstein, 'Die Beiden Jörg Sorg', Waffen- and Kostümkunde, VIII, 1966, pp. 81-6.

    Jörg Sorg II was born about 1522, the son of the Augsburg official painter Jörg Sorg I. He was probably his father's third son by his second wife, Catherina, daughter of the great armourer Kolman Helmschmid. He probably learnt his trade with the other apprentices in his father's studio. He was received as a master in the Painters' Guild in Augsburg in 1548. In 1564 he was dwelling next door to the armourer William Seusenhofer. In 1568 he married his second wife, Anna Glauber from Stadion in Bavaria. In 1575 he became guardian of the motherless son of the armourer Matthäus Fraunpreiss II. He died in 1603. His importance as a decorator of armour is indicated by his surviving book of designs in which he recorded the names of his patrons between 1548 and 1563 (Stuttgart, Wurtembergischen Landesbibliothek, Cod. Milit. 2024). These included the future Emperor Maximilian II, and many of his principal courtiers.
    Sorg was employed by most of the more important armourers of Augsburg in his day. (Becher, Camber & Irtenkauf, 1980, pp. 26-7.)