Made by the armorer Wilhelm von Worms the Elder, German (active Nuremberg), master in 1499, died 1538
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 chanfron (headpiece) and peytral (chest defense) are struck on their left sides with von Worms's armorer's mark and with the inspection mark of the armorers of Nuremberg. The ornamentation of the steel surfaces is unique in inspiration and unsurpassed in the quality of design and execution.
Duke Ulrich of Württemberg (1487-1550, ruled 1498 to 1519 and 1534 to 1550) possibly commissioned this armor in anticipation of riding, along with other German princes, with Maximilian I of Austria from Germany to Rome, where Maximilian was to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Julius II. Because the Republic of Venice refused to grant safe passage, however, the planned journey never took place.
Commissioned by Duke Ulrich of Württemberg for his personal use in a military expedition in Italy and the anticipated triumphal procession in Rome, this exquisitely decorated horse armor captures the legendary extravagance of the young prince. Wrought by Wilhelm von Worms the Elder, the leading armorer of Nuremberg, it is adorned in gold with figures of noblewomen, the duke’s motto, and a spectacular dragon. The exceptional quality of the design and execution of the ornamentation suggests Wilhelm’s collaboration with a notable artist, probably a painter. Although the man’s armor (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009-117-2) was made in Landshut, about one hundred miles south of Nuremberg, and probably was intended for a different patron, its decoration was created using the same techniques and dates to about the same time as the horse armor, with which it has been associated since the nineteenth century. Modeled with singular care and skill, it is the richest early Renaissance armor by the Landshut school. The acquisition of these outstanding masterpieces of early Renaissance armor, made possible through the extraordinary generosity of Athena and Nicholas Karabots and The Karabots Foundation, marked a transformative addition to the Museum’s celebrated collection of arms and armor. The Museum now preserves the earliest complete Nuremberg armors for man and horse, and several key works by the foremost armorers of Landshut; its collection of early Renaissance German armor ranks among the most important outside Europe. Pierre Terjanian, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook.