The Wallace Collection

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Saddle steel
  • Saddle steel
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Milan, Italy
  • c. 1550
  • Steel and gold, etched and counterfeit-damascened
  • Weight: 0.3 kg
  • A416
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Left side-plate from a front saddle steel, part of an incomplete set (originally of three; the central plate is missing) with A417. Of the finest quality, embossed with a female figure (the personification of Victory) seated and holding a palm branch on a background of matt gold partly etched with scrollwork, and part of the borders richly damascened in gold arabesques (compare with the shield A325 and the plaque A1341), the flesh plated with silver, the edges roped. The border is turned over to a hollow flange and roped. Part of the borders at the top and bottom, and the details of the clothing, are richly counterfeit-damascened in gold with arabesques. The background is etched with foliate scrollwork.

    The decoration of A416-17 has affinities with some of the pieces attributed by Grosz to Lucio Piccinino (Vienna Jahrbuch, XXXVI, 1925, pp. 123-55), but also resembles a round target embossed with The Triumph of Bacchus, in the Museo Civico Marzoli, Brescia, which is inscribed BPF and dated 1563 (Inv. no. 373; Thomas and Gamber, 1958, p. 784, illus. on p. 802). Thomas suggested that this inscription might represent the signature of Battista Palto, the F standing for 'fecit' (Thomas and Gamber, 1958, p. 784, repr. on p. 802). In 1967 Boccia, however, reserved judgment on this suggestion (Boccia and Coelho, 1967, p. 335), but in 1979 Boccia, Rossi and Morin (pl. 150), while following Thomas in thinking that a member of the Palto family was possible, preferred Bartolomeo Piatti, cited by Morigia as being outstanding in the art of damascening, and as one who executed many original works in this technique (Nobilità de Milano, 1595, Lib. V, Chap. XVII).

    Battista Palto is recorded in a list of Milanese armourers given by J. Gelli and G. Moretti (1903, p. 22) but nothing further seems to be known about him.
    The matter is further confused if the letters MP on the left lower corner of the round target in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg (Lenz, 1908, no. H53, pl. XX) are really a signature. Grosz, who identified the engraved sources of the decoration, grouped it with the work of Lucio Marliani, called Piccinino.
    The workmanship of these plates, both the embossing and the counterfeit-damascening, is very close to that of the 'Milanese Garniture' of the Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol (Vienna, KHM, inv. no. A785; Boccia and Coelho, 1967, figs. 279-80). This was bought in 1560 from Giovanni Battista Serabaglio and Marc' Antonio Fava, both of Milan. Although the counterfeit-damascening on nos. A416-7 is less lavish, the embossing seems close to that of a burgonet and a round target in the old Electoral Armoury at Dresden, which were made before 1567 (inv. nos. 149 and 148; Haenel, 1923, pl. 27; and Schöbel, 1975, pls. 21-2).