Milanese Armour, belonging to a member of the Von Matsch family

Milanese Armour, belonging to a member of the Von Matsch family of Castle Churburg

  • Milanese Armour, belonging to a member of the Von Matsch family of Castle Churburg

Schloss Churburg, circa 1455
Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove

This armour was almost certainly owned by a member of the Matsch family of Castle Churburg in the Italian Tyrol. Churburg now belongs to the Trapp family, successors of the Matsches in an unbroken sequence since the Middle Ages, and still houses the armours of the two families. The harness shown here now resides in Glasgow and is unique in Britian. Having left Churburg as recently as the 1930s, its pedigree is precisely known.

The condition of this Italian armour is remarkable considering it is over five centuries old. Even more impressive is the fact that this harness is very nearly homogeneous. While the right gauntlet is genuine, the left one is of modern manufacture, made to match. The helmet, a Barbuta, is contemporary to the armour and though it does not belong, it is a fine piece in itself; still retaining much of its original padded lining. The mail shirt is also not original, for during this time it was becoming less common to wear a complete mail shirt under plate armour. Rather, smaller mail gussets were sewn into the arming doublet to protect areas not fully covered by the plate.

Some sections are also missing. Most notably, the four leather straps seen hanging from the front would have held two plates, called tassets, to protect the vulnerable areas between the body and legs. Similarly, plates are missing from the back. A reinforce, or strengthening piece, would have been attached to the right pauldron but instead shows evidence of being wrenched off, possibly in action. Other signs of use are dents and damage to the two lower front portions of the fauld, or skirt, which may be a result of an impact by crossbow bolt or lance.

The general form of this armour, with its smooth round shapes and subtle curves, follows a common style developed in Italy during the 15th century. The rounded, simple lines suggest a utilitarian and robust appearance while imparting an understated elegance to its strength of form. The leftmost side is more heavily protected, enhancing the metaphor of durability. The Italian fashion also dictated the use of mail rather than plate sabatons to protect the feet.

The reputation of Italian armourers was such that their products were in demand all over Europe. A vast export trade was built up, while Italian styles commanded wide influence. Only in southern Germany and in Austria were there comparable centers of armour manufacture during this particular period of time.


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