The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Gauntlet
  • Gauntlet
  • Matthäus Frauenpreiss I (c. 1505 - 1549)
  • Jörg Sorg II (c. 1522), Etcher
  • Augsburg, Germany
  • c. 1550
  • Steel and gold, etched and gilt
  • Weight: 0.6 kg
  • A270
  • European Armoury II
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The decoration on this fine gauntlet for the ‘free tourney’ marks it as belonging to a very large garniture made for the future Emperor Maximilian II, between 1549 and 1550. One of the greatest German garnitures, this huge ensemble provided all required protective equipment for war as well as the Freiturnier, tournament combat on foot, and several forms of joust. The decoration is not especially complicated or distinctive, being composed of wide etched and gilt strapwork bands framed by much narrower strips of etched cabling. However the quality, of both the plates themselves and their ornamentation, is exemplary, being the work of the Augsburg armourer Matthäus Frauenpreiss and the etcher Jorg Sorg, both masters of their respective arts.

    The armour is extremely well preserved and documented. Not only do most of its pieces survive but it is also recorded in the illustrated album of Jorg Sorg. Sorg did not however illustrate all of the parts, but rather as many as would fit on two facing pages of the album. Fortunately his illustrations can be compared to those included in the Turnierbuch of Jeremiah Schemel (c.1568), which are complete and show the full extent and complexity of this impressive armour. Schemel illustrated the pieces for the field and Freiturnier together. Amongst this dense visual inventory is a depiction of the Wallace Collection’s tourney gauntlet.

    One of the central dangers in the Freiturnier was injury to the weapon hand. In close combat with swords on horseback, the hand was bound to be struck repeatedly. The inner surface of the fist was also especially vulnerable in situations where two combatants charged each other and struck as they passed right side to right side. If the combatant misjudged his distance even slightly, his weapon hand, rather than his weapon, could smash into the opponent’s body, easily breaking the fingers or thumb, or at least causing a considerable amount of pain. Sixteenth-century armourers therefore designed special tourney gauntlets which protected the fingers with heavy mitten plates and which incorporated a thumb assembly cunningly fashioned to enclose fully the upper half of the opposable digit, to prevent it being crushed.