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Equestrian armour
  • Equestrian armour
  • Possibly Ulrich Rämbs , Armourer
  • Germany, partially Landshut
  • Date: c. 1485
    1800 - 1899 (gauntlets)
  • Medium: Iron, low- and medium-carbon steels, leather, felt, canvas, wood and copper alloy, fluted, pierced, chiselled, etched, punched, embossed and engraved
  • Weight: 27.161 kg, Total for man's armour
  • Weight: 30.07 kg, Total for horse's armour
  • Weight: 10.17 kg, Total for mail
  • Inv: A21
  • Location: Arms and Armour III
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Further Reading

    Assembled and partly restored in the nineteenth century, this impressive ensemble nevertheless expresses the splendour and elegance of the German ‘gothic’ style of armour, with fluted surfaces and boldly cusped borders. This armour for war, or some parts of it, is recorded as having come from the Castle of Hohenaschau in Bavaria, dynastic home of the von Freyberg family, whose armoury was dispersed in the 1850s. Fifteenth-century plate armour is of the greatest rarity; although in this case that for the man is heavily composite, the horse armour (bard) is relatively homogenous and in remarkably good condition.

    The rider’s armour is composed of:

    SALLET, the skull of which is quite heavy, made in one piece with a central ridge drawn up to a pierced quadrangular plume stalk at the apex. The pointed tail of the helmet has at some point (almost certainly in the nineteenth century) been cut back and the lower edge decorated with a wide band of brass, riveted in flush with the steel surface, the edge of the skull beneath having been re-forged and sunk to receive it. The edge of the skull is broken and repaired in several places, now concealed by the brass band. The skull is bordered with a row of brass-headed rivets for the lining band. Above these are four circular holes, and a deep slit has been cut in the forward edge on both sides. There are five holes on the right side and four on the left, but three of them which are roughly burred on the inside appear to be fairly recent. The VISOR, made in one piece, is pivoted on either side over the ears and projects beyond the lower edge of the skull. It is not original to the skull, and maybe be a nineteenth-century fabrication, at least in part. The sight is formed by the interval between skull and visor. It is strongly flanged on the upper edge. The extensions on which the visor is pivoted have clearly been restored in each case about two inches from the top, where they had probably been broken.

    BEVOR, shaped to the chin and constructed of two plates, the upper held in place by a spring catch, the top edge is of triangular section flanged and strongly turned over. The lower plate is cusped at the bottom edge and bordered with brass. There is a hole in the centre for bolting to the breastplate. It has been repaired on the right side; both parts are decorated with rows of brass-headed rivets for the lining bands, parts of which remain.

    BREASTPLATE, composed of two parts not originally belonging together, with a slight central ridge, and strongly ridged at the upper edge and round the arm-holes. On either shoulder are a pair of holes which formerly held the straps to the backplate, but these have since been replaced by brass buckles. On the chest there is a tapped hole for screwing on the bevor, another modern addition. At the bottom in the centre are three holes, one above the other (not now in use) and one through which the lower part of the breastplate is screwed. The three holes mentioned above could also be used if it was wished to raise the plackart. The latter rises to a finial in the centre with a cusped edge at either side. The finial is pierced with a floral pattern. This is a restoration; the original appears to have broken off about two inches from the top. The original finial was probably shorter than the replacement, as it would otherwise conflict with the lower edge of the bevor. The breastplate narrows at the waist and widens slightly at the bottom to receive the skirt. The SKIRT, of two lames set on sliding rivets, the upper edges bevelled and cusped. They appear to be modern. The integral TASSETS are also modern, composed of two lames, the lower and larger being acutely pointed; the upper ones cusped and bevelled. They are bordered at the bottom with four bands of fluting (cf. the rear skirt), the inner edges being turned outwards.

    BACKPLATE, entirely original and of exceptional quality. At the top below the neck is a narrow V-shaped plate which is lightly punched with floral pointillé decoration. This ornament, which occurs on certain armours at Churburg and elsewhere, was the precursor of etched decoration. Overlapping this narrow V-shaped plate at the top is the main backplate, which covers the upper part of the back. It too is cut into a V-shape at the top with a finial rising in the centre. Below it are two articulated lames which overlap downwards to join the waist-plate. These plates are decorated with elegantly pleated flutings, and where they overlap are cusped and notched en suite with the fluting. The waistplate is shaped and curved fluted both vertically in groups of curves at the sides. The rear SKIRT is comprised of four articulated plates, relieved with radiating fluting like the back, the edge of the lowest lame is cusped and bevelled to correspond with the fluting, and bordered with four bands of fluting. The upper edges are notched to correspond with the fluting.

    PAULDRONS, entirely modern but incorporating some old metal, built up of seven plates, comprising three narrow upper lames, a main plate, and three lower ones protecting the upper arm. The main plate in each case extends over the back of the shoulder where it is decorated with fan-like fluting ending in escalloped edges.

    BESAGEWS, oval, fluted, the edges engrailed; in the centre a pyramidal spike of brass. Both are modern, and been removed.

    ARM DEFENCES, made up of an original pair of upper cannons and left couter, which have been associated with recycled and restored lower cannons and right couter. The upper cannons fully enclose the upper arm. They are subtly shaped to the biceps and have been decorated with strong chevron flutes. The COUTERS are separate, of the ‘floating’ type, large and pointed, each made in one plate with a small extension at the back. The surface is boldly relieved with shell-like fluting. The left couter is original, the right was made in 1956 by the late Theodore Egli of the Tower Armouries, to replace a combination formed of part of a small couter and a poldermitton, which, although old, were inconsistent with the rest of the armour. Each couter is pierced at the centre with four holes for lacing. The LOWER CANNONS are old, but both made for the right arm, hinged on the lateral face and strapped on the medial surface. They are smooth and unfluted, shaped to the musculature of the forearm. The cannon presently mounted on the right arm of the figure is much heavier than the left, and appears to come from a jousting armour.

    GAUNTLETS, entirely modern, with pointed cuffs edged with brass and fluted in the German style to match in with the rest of the armour. They are articulated at the wrist, with three metacarpal plates, pierced and notched. However, the wrist does not articulate correctly; it does not allow the hand to pitch down, but instead immobilises the hand level with the forearm. This is a stark contrast to almost any original German gauntlet of this period, which typically allow a much greater range of movement. Includes large brass knuckle-plates with gadlings, and scaled fingers, the final scale engraved with a finger-nail.

    LEG HARNESS incorporating long CUISSES reaching to the hips. The main plate is embossed with chevron fluting and is strongly flanged at the upper edge to a triangular section, to act as a stop-rib. Above this are two narrow cusped lames working on sliding rivets, and a third reaching to the forks which renders tassets unnecessary. The top edge is turned over and bordered with brass-headed rivets for the lining. To the outer side of each cuisse are attached two oblong hinged plates, boxed and joined together by sliding rivets, designed to protect the side and back of the thigh. The topmost of these subsidiary lames bears two armourers' marks, one of them being the guild mark of Landshut. The POLEYNS each have a sharp midline ridge, articulated once above and twice below the middle knee-piece and extending over the greave in a long, pointed demi-greave. Forged in one with each kneepiece is an elegantly shaped side-wing embossed with curved ridges. It is stamped with similar marks to those on the cuisses. In the lowermost plate there is a circular hole and key-slot for fastening over the greaves. The brass decoration on the poleyns is modern, presumably executed at the same time as that on the helmet. The GREAVES are each made in two pieces hinged together and fastening at the top and bottom over a stud with two holes for adjustment. There are two holes at the top to connect with the cuisses. The upper edges of the rear plate in each case are turned over. The lower edges have been cut down by the nineteenth-century restorer to allow for the (historically inaccurate) integration of the SABATONS. The sabatons are each of nine overlapping lames, and appear to date from the fifteenth century, although their lower edges have been severely trimmed down. The toe-plates, which are probably modern, are acutely pointed and turned under, with the point curving downwards.

    The rider’s armour is displayed with a hood of modern butted mail.

    The HORSE ARMOUR consists of:

    SHAFFRON, partially restored and composed of fourteen pieces in all; the large frontal plate is fluted on either side of the central ridge and reinforced with a vertical band of steel (modern), shaped and riveted on. To this are affixed a salient nose-guard embossed with a grotesque face outlined in brass; eye-guards, with the inner edges invected and the outer roped; tubular, pointed ear-guards (old, but with modern insertions), the outer edges bordered with brass and the inner pierced with small holes for the lining. They are extended under the shaffron by having two small lames riveted to the inner side. In the centre of the forehead of the fine frontal plate, which retains its original leather lining, to it is fixed, over the area of the forehead, a large rondel of three circular plates, one over the other, carrying a large, projecting spike. At the edge of the rondel are two armourers' marks. One of these, representing a war hat, is the mark of the Bavarian city of Landshut. Attached to the sides of the frontal plate are two cheek-pieces strongly hinged. They are embossed like the frontal plate with sprays of fluting in the German manner. On the poll is a single plate, formerly hinged, and pierced in the centre with three holes for the stud of the first lame of the crinet, and furnished with F-shaped hooks to attach the crinet. The lining is of coarse felt and canvas. (Viollet-le-Duc VI, pp. 70-71, Fig. 34.)

    CRINET of fourteen overlapping plates relieved with sprays of fluting on either side and embossed with a series of rounded ridges down the middle. They are connected by modern interior straps, but two fragments of the original straps remain. The upper lame is fitted with a stud at the centre and two hooks at the side to engage with the poll-plate on the shaffron, and the lowermost lame has a strap, buckle and stud on either side; the third, fourth and fifth lames from the top are restorations. The throat below the crinet is protected by mail, mostly of flat, single-riveted links of uncertain date.

    PEYTRAL of five large plates, joined to each other by strong brass hinges (modern) each pierced with two hearts. Each plate is decorated with a spray of fluting, and the central lame is shaped to the horse's chest with bosses for the horse's shoulders. The outer ones are each pierced with a small hole and furnished with a short bolt and winged nut at the top on either side; the upper edges are partly flanged and the lower ones cusped and bevelled. They are pierced with round-headed steel rivets for the lining bands.

    CRUPPER, consisting of two large plates protecting the hindquarters of the horse, each built up of six lames overlapping and riveted to each other. They are curved to the shape of the horse's body, with the lower edges cusped and bevelled and the whole embossed with a large spray of fluting carried across all six lames. There are two steel buckles at the top and one at the inner edge. The right side is slightly heavier than the left.

    SADDLE, dating from c. 1510 and thus later than the other original parts of the ensemble. The tree is of wood, the underside lined with birch bark; the seat covered with leather. The front arçon is armoured with three steel plates secured by five large-headed screws, the central plate being cut square at the top, the edges flanged and boldly roped. The entire surface of the front saddle steel is decorated with vertical and horizontal, parallel fluting. The cantle is composed of two arched arms designed to embrace the rider’s seat, and also covered in armour plates, fluted, and supported by strong stays, spirally-twisted and fastened with screws (see Viollet-le-Duc VI, pp. 68-9, fig. 33). The left rear arçon plate and the strut on that side are modern replacements. The STIRRUPS are arch-shaped, the sides triple-fluted and widening towards the base where each flute is pierced with a circular hole. The tread consists of two inner parallel bars of diamond section, and two outer curved ones, oblong in section, the upper edges serrated and notched. Oblong buckles for the leathers are pivoted on top of the hollow, box-shaped crowns. The stirrups are probably later than the rest of the armour, and differ from those reproduced by Viollet-le-Duc (VI, p. 67, fig. 32).

    The feet of the figure carry SPURS with very long necks (25 cm long), of flattened diamond section, slightly upward curving and chiselled towards the end with a herring-bone pattern, terminating in six-pointed rowels of brass. These last were probably substituted for the original iron rowels, when the other brass enrichments were added to the harness. The heel-plates each carry a brass buckle and lockets for the straps. These are reproduced by Viollet-le-Duc (VI, p. 67, fig. 32).

    The BIT, BRIDLE, and all the leather-work are modern restorations. The leopard's skin edging added by Joubert in 1908 has since been removed.

    South German, some parts made in Landshut, c. 1485.

    Viollet-le-Duc, V, p. 141, pls. 3 and 4; VI, pp. 56, 67-71, Figs. 32-4, 294: Laking, European Armour III, pp. 178-9, fig. 988; II, fig. 580: de Lacy.

    The marks on the shaffron, the only part of this armour which was definitely made in Landshut, also occur on the upper cannon of an arm and a right spaudler in the Museo Stibbert, Florence (1917-18 Cat., nos. 3792 and 3910 respectively; S. Pyhrr, letter of 23 July 1975; confirmed bby Mario Scalini, letter of 3 June 1983). It was suggested in the exhibition catalogue ‘Landshuter Plattnerkunst’ (1975; p. 15, no. 4, cat. no. 38, pls. 1-2) that this maker’s mark is possibly that of Ulrich Rämbs.

    The mark on the leg armour of A21 occurs also on the poleyn wings of a very similar pair of legharness associated with other pieces of ‘gothic’ armour in the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin.

    This armour is not identifiable in the 1567 inventory of Schloss Hohenaschau (G. Schiedlausky, Waffen -und Kostümkunde, 1962, pp. 25-24). Presumably, if it was in the castle at that time, it was lying about in fragments and being so out of date was not considered worth recording.