This horse armor is the earliest complete example outside of Europe, and one of only a handful of such early date in the world. It is also the only surviving horse armor by Wilhelm von Worms, an illustrious armorer in the city of Nuremberg.
The quality of a sword is often described by its metallurgical properties: the purity of the steel and the sharpness, hardness and resiliency of the blade. These are naturally important qualities for a weapon but the way it behaves when put in motion, how it responds to sudden changes in direction is equally or perhaps even more critical.
The Stechhelm formed part of a highly specialized tournament armor worn solely for the Gestech, or German joust, fought with blunted lances. The object was to break lances or to unhorse the opponent. This helmet was probably part of a series kept in the Nuremberg arsenal for civic tournaments.
This is the earliest dated armor from the royal workshops at Greenwich, which were established in 1515 by Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47) to produce armors for himself and his court. It is also the earliest surviving Greenwich garniture, an armor made with a series of exchange and reinforcing pieces by which it could be adapted for use in battle and in different forms of the tournament. Furthermore, the overall etching and gilding place it among the most richly decorated of all Greenwich armors.
This is one of the most elaborate and complete French parade armors, and it retains much of its original coloring. The surfaces are covered by dense foliate scrolls inhabited by human figures and a variety of fabulous creatures that derive from the Italian grotesque.
Deep skull is of 1 piece of steel, drawn up into an engrailled central comb, with a similar, smaller comb nearly centered on either side. The skull has an integral fall which is pointed and upwardly angled. Base of skull is finished in narrow, slightly downturned basal flange that widens slightly as it curves across back of neck. Encircling base of skull above this is row of 7 rivets.
Blackened with unblackened trim. The medial ridge is bordered with an unblackened ribbon on the front, ending just as it rounds the outer elbow. Although the ribbon may have at one time been completely engraved, only engraving of foliage exists now at the turn of the outer elbow. Both couters have been extensively patched at the medial ridge and outer wings. The edges of the couters are bordered by a 1/2" unblackened ribbon with turned edges. The borders have little engraving remaining because of the patching and severe pitting. There is a curving embossed decoration on the upper and lower wings that is painted black. The one couter has a hole that probably served to accommodate a securing stud on the leather running beneath it; the other appears to have lost this hole due to damage and patching.
Helmets fitted with masklike visors were a popular German and Austrian fashion about 1510 to 1540. With their visors forged and embossed as humorous or grotesque human masks, such helmets were often worn in tournaments held during the exuberant pre-Lenten (Shrovetide) festivals, celebrations somewhat akin to the modern Mardi Gras. Substitute visors of more conventional type were often provided for everyday use.
This helmet comes from a small group of closely related Spangenhelme (strap helmets). The sites where they have been found are widely scattered, ranging from Sweden to Germany, the Balkans and Libya. The Metropolitan Museum’s helmet was found in the Saône River near Trévoux, France. The quality of the helmets and their diverse find sites suggest that they were made as diplomatic gifts to foreign rulers, perhaps sent from the Byzantine court or from the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.
George Clifford (1558–1605) was appointed Queen’s Champion in 1590 and was made a Knight of the Garter two years later. He is best remembered for his capture of the Spanish fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1598. A favorite of Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603), he chose for the decoration of this armor the Tudor rose, the French fleur-de-lis (then part of the English arms), and the cipher of Elizabeth, two E’s back to back.
Although today appreciated as works of art or as examples of historical technology, it must be noted that all armor, whether used in warfare, tournaments, or parades, once had a “working lifetime.” Often these objects have been subjected, literally, to extreme “wear and tear.” Therefore, no matter how well armor may be displayed in museums today, its original use and function can be difficult to convey.
Steel, for left hand. Short tubular cuff with plain, turned edge. Wrist end of cuff with buckle-and-strap. 5 metacarpal lames. Lowest is deeper & has 3 triangular depressions for base of fingers. Riveted to this are 5 overlapping lames, each molded for fingers. Terminal lame with interior leather. Missing thumb & inner wrist lame. Domed steel rivets. [WJK]. The fingers don't match the body of the hand--all joints are well articulated except for the one joining the two. This could also explain the now disused extra holes on the side of the main body. The remains of fluted decoration can be seen on the inside of the cuff.
Kunz Lochner was one of the few Nuremberg armorers of the mid-sixteenth century to achieve an international reputation. His patrons included the Holy Roman Emperor, the dukes of Saxony, and the king of Poland. This horse armor bears only the Nuremberg mark but can be attributed to Lochner on stylistic grounds. The elaborately embossed and etched decoration of the peytral (chest defense) includes an abbreviated inscription that may be interpreted: 1548 K[rist] I[ch] T[rau] G[anz] V[nd] G[ar] H[ans] E[rnst] H[erzog] Z[u] Sachsen (1548 In Christ I trust wholly, Hans [Johann] Ernst, Duke of Saxony). Duke Johann Ernst (1521–1553) may have commissioned the horse armor for his attendance at the Diet of Augsburg, a political assembly of the German nobility called in 1548 by Charles V to deal with the crisis of the Reformation.
This is the most complete example of a small but distinctive group of helmets that are characterized by the presence of raised central ridges, applied brass borders, and the use of brass rivets rather than leather laces to join the major components. The finial at the top of the helmet is decorated in gold and silver with a protective mantra reading OM AH HUM. The brim has a series of five motifs known as dry skulls (thod skam), linked by tendrils of flames.
Circular section steel shaft of 3 centrally bolted stages with raised moldings over wooden core. Shaft covered with chiseled silver floral spirals. Bifurcated spike, each component with scalloped edges & reinforced quadrangular point. Spikes are mounted on squared body atop shaft & opposed by rounded hammerhead. Traces of gilding. Missing top mount.
Shields of this type were carried by crossbowmen and other foot soldiers in central Europe during the fifteenth century. This example is painted in the center with a crown surmounted by three ostrich feathers, a badge of the kings of Bohemia. Below this is the letter Y on a radiant cloud, possibly the monogram for Yhesus (Jesus). At the top is the coat of arms of the Saxon city of Zwickau (a red shield with three white swans), which was added to the shield at a later date.
This especially attractive and well-preserved turban-shaped helmet is stamped with the mark used in the Ottoman arsenals, indicating that it, like several other turban helmets in the collection, passed into Turkish possession as booty with the Ottoman conquest of Iran and Caucasus. At least one turban helmet decorated in a style comparable to this example bears the name of Farrukh-Siar (r. 1464–1501), ruler of Shivran in the Caucasus. Such evidence suggests that the Museum's helmet is also of Shivran manufacture.