Update 25 Nov 2008. Price Reduced and an embossed ‘lion’ helmet added to the package.
Please note this armour was not made by William Hurt but rather by the talented Chris Dobson (arms and legs) and Will West (spaudlers, cuirass). This is an absolutely stunning suit of armour. I would love to be able to say it was my own but all the credit must go to Messrs. Dobson and West.
A customer, , mentioned he was considering selling this lovely harness. I offered to list it on AgeOfArmour.com for him as I know many of my visitors will be interested in such a beautiful work of art.
Toby is happy to discuss the armour further or answer any additional questions about it.
A Heroic Armour of the 15th-Century:
Reconstructed in 2008
This armour was researched and designed by Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection in London. It was built for Toby to wear as the challenger in the Pas d’ Armes of the Golden Fleece held in Switzerland, by the Bern Historical Museum in cooperation with the Company of Saint George, July 30- August 10 2008. Its excellent mobility proved to be a major advantage when fighting on horseback, while the very robust hardened carbon-steel construction makes it extremely effective against the weapons employed in foot combat.
The purpose of this armour reconstruction project was to recreate a powerful image from Renaissance warrior culture: the
Classical, Greco-Roman hero as imagined by 15th-century artists and armourers.
Today most of the attention of armour researchers and enthusiasts is directed towards what might be called ‘real’ armour- the state-of-the-art harness of late medieval and Renaissance knights as exemplified by surviving armours and pieces of armour, and further represented in highly accurate and well-studied depictions of harness in pictorial art and sculpture.
But our modern understanding of what is ‘real’ , and what is not, is based for the most part on a very small number of surviving pieces, in fact a microscopic sliver of the total amount of armour that was produced. Surely many other sorts of armour once existed but are now no longer testified to by any extant pieces.
A Fascination with the Ancient World
The beating heart of the Renaissance was, since its beginnings in the 14th century, a passionate fascination with the ancient world. The artistic, literary, and military accomplishments of the Greeks and Romans were rediscovered by medieval people, producing a cultural awakening of enormous and lasting significance. For the knight, the Renaissance meant an admiration for, and identification with, the deeds of the legendary heroes of Greek and Roman history and mythology. The 15th-century war-leader began to compare himself to Achilles, to Aeneas, to Caesar, and to many other great warriors from the ancient past.
The saying ‘clothes maketh the man’ was never more true than when applied to knights, although perhaps we should say that ‘armour maketh the warrior’ . When comparisons between modern knights and ancient heroes began to be drawn, it cannot have been very long before 15th-century people were wondering what Classical ‘knights’ should actually look like. We know very well that by the 16th-century, a great deal of armour in the antique or heroic style was being produced, particularly by the Negroli family of armourers and a number of their more talented fellow Milanese craftsmen.
Rebirth of the Ancient ‘Superhero’
In the 16th-century, princes, lords, and knights were literally dressing up as their Greek and Roman heroes. But why should this practice have suddenly sprung up out of nowhere in the mid-16th century? Because the fragmentary material record does not provide that many surviving examples of heroic armour dating from before the 16th century?
The starting point for this armour reconstruction project was the idea that knights in the 15th century (like their descendants in the 1500s) did at times dress in armour designed according to their conception of Greco-Roman equipment. This conception must have been developed by combining studies of Classical art with healthy doses of artistic imagination. The result was the flamboyant and often bizarre al ‘antica style that pervades 15th-century art but which is usually dismissed by armour scholars.
Although they often seem stranger than anything seen in a Hollywood film, many 15th-century depictions of Greco-Roman warriors feature armour that seems like it would work in the real world. While outlandish, many seem at least to be plausible constructions, and the more one looks at this style the more unavoidable is one conclusion- some of it had to be real.
The goal of this project was to take a few of the central design themes of the heroic style of the mid- to late 15th century and build them as real, functional pieces of armour, in an effort explore that functionality but also just to experience the image of a Renaissance superhero in real life.
The armour now offered for sale consists of:
- ‘demi-cuirass’ based on a Netherlandish altarpiece fragment, c.1480, now in the collections of Glasgow Museums, UK.
- red velvet brigandine, worn under the demi-cuirass.
- vambraces, the lower cannons fully laminated in the 15th-century ‘Florentine’ style.
- articulated spaudlers with besagews.
- elbow-length riveted mail sleeves, entirely of brass.
- pendant pteruges of red leather, giving additional protection to the upper arms.
- pteruge-skirt of red leather to match those for the upper arms.
- cuisses with floating poleyns fitted with red leather pteruges and brass mail ‘balzae’ .
- various accessories, including additional pieces of brass mail and a short cloak of red wool, a very heroic detail giving a flash of Roman centurion elegance or Spartan hoplite panache …
All of the main plate armour elements are made of hardened and tempered spring-steel, apart from the knee plates, which are mild steel. All strapping is high-quality oil-tanned buff leather.
Embossed ‘lion’ helmet
in the Classical style, steel, made by Emrys (Essex, UK), 2003.
‘Lion’ helmets such as this, undoubtedly directly inspired by Classical helmets of similar form, had appeared by the middle of the 15th century, and were often worn with early armours of the Renaissance heroic style. A direct evocation of Hercules clad in the pelt of the Nemean Lion, helmets of this type formed a very obvious association between the Renaissance warrior and his ancient Greco-Roman forbears.
The Demi-cuirass and Brigandine
The body armour was reconstructed from a Netherlandish depiction of a Roman military saint, probably St Maurice, c. 1480, now in the collection of Glasgow Museums and displayed at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This extraordinary piece may have been designed to suggest a Greco-Roman muscle-cuirass or thorax, while still maintaining the protective qualities of up-to-date Italian armour. Cut around the abdominal area, the design suggests muscles without compromising the main glancing surfaces on the upper body. The lower torso is protected by a brigandine defence; one of the key ideas relating to the design of this sort of heroic armour was that ancient armour was often made up of many small plates. So scale and brigandine constructions feature very prominently in the style generally. From a practical point of view this design gives excellent protection while allowing superb mobility at the waist in all directions, much more in fact than is allowed by the state-of-the-art cuirasses of the 15th century.
The backplate is obviously hypothetical, but designed to be in keeping with the breastplate and also with 15th-century Italo-Netherlandish taste. Backplates of a similar flavour are found for example on the west European armours depicted by King René of Anjou in his various chivalric works.
Worn underneath the demi-cuirass is a modified brigandine. All of the plates above the lung-plates have been removed, allowing the cuirass to sit comfortably over it. Nevertheless, this set-up provides an excellent level of protection for the vital organs, which are protected by two layers of padded textile and two of steel. The brigandine closes by means of straps on the right side, with no other join, producing a very clean, elegant appearance.
The Arm Defences
In 1417 Donatello completed a larger-than-life sculpture of St George. Commissioned by the armourers’ guild of Florence, this extraordinarily life-like work established Donatello as the greatest sculptor in Italy. It is one of those rare sculptures that really does seem as though it might turn and regard the viewer at any moment. The armour depicted on this work is vitally important to the history of al ‘antica armour for several reasons. Firstly, this was a work of art created for some of the most armour-literate people in the world at that time. Secondly, it set a new standard for the depiction of convincing Greco-Roman armour. Indeed, the armour seems so well put- together that it is tempting to wonder whether Donatello may have had real armour references to work with. Perhaps the armourers guild in Florence was producing real armour in this heroic style; perhaps they were even famous for it, hence their desire to have it displayed on their new commission.
The vambraces depicted on Donatello’ s St George are particularly striking, being made up of a series of laminated plates articulating on external leathers. Vambraces of this type appear consistently in Italian art throughout the 15th century, especially in Florentine works depicting Classical subjects, for example, in a number of paintings by Botticelli. In some cases the vambraces protect only the top half of the forearm, while in others the cannons are fully enclosed, as are the present reconstructions.
This design allows much greater protection for the top of the forearm, since the plates can extend up much closer to the inner elbow; since the whole defence articulates, less of a inner elbow cut-out is required. The overlapping plates also reinforce each other, creating bands of double-thickness protection. The lack of couter articulating lames also produces arm mobility of exceptional range and subtlety.
The one-piece couters are reinforced with large circular reinforces or rondellas. These additional plates are secured to the couters by means of arming points, a common method of attachment, especially for tournaments (see King René d’ Anjou’ s tournament book).
Shoulder defences in the 15th-century heroic style almost always took the form of small spaudlers, sometimes embossed with vines, volutes, or monstrous masks, but often also left for the most part plain. The present reconstruction includes very simple but extremely elegant spaudlers, each made up of three plates with an accompanying besagew.
The three main spaudler plates move on internal leathers and sliding rivets, producing an exception range of movement- especially important when fighting on foot!
To add to the heroic, princely quality of the armour, and to enhance its ancient, Bronze Age flavour, the riveted mail worn with it has been made entirely of brass. The small half-shirt (really a pair of sleeves joined across the back by means of a small panel of mail between the shoulder blades) is worn under the brigandine, the sleeves covering the upper cannons of the vambraces in the Italian manner.
A number of additional pieces of this brass mail are included. These may be used to build a skirt, standard, or other additional mail elements.
Pteruges are perhaps the most universal device for indicating a Greco-Roman military subject in Renaissance art. They are pendant labels or strips of leather or textile that hang from various parts of Classical armour, most usually the shoulders and waist but often also the knees.
The pteruges of the present reconstruction are made of good quality vegetable-tanned leather, dyed red to match the red velvet of the brigandine. The shoulder pteruges are designed to integrate with the spaudlers, but are also removable. The skirt is worn as a separate piece underneath the brigandine. Both elements bring the al ‘antica image firmly to life, while also adding a further level of protection.
The cuisses of the armour are composed of a one-piece thigh plate, floating poleyn, and rondel tendon-guard. The poleyn is decorated with a pendant fringe of small pteruges and mail, to match the shoulders.
Like the arm defences, the simple construction of the legs provides an extremely good range of movement, and also makes the pieces easier to clean!
Although they can quite easily be worn with greaves, many 15th-century depictions of classical warriors show them with cuisses only, wearing tall boots or sandals on their feet and lower legs.
Other Bits and Pieces
As mentioned above the armour here offered for sale includes a number of additional pieces of riveted brass mail that can be used to make up a skirt, standard, or whatever other pieces my be desired. It also includes a short cloak of red wool, designed to put the finish touch on this rather flamboyant heroic image. Every hero needs a cape… The cloak attaches to special toggles integrated into the shoulder pteruges assemblies, located just behind the spaudler arming points.