Tonlet Harness of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Aragon, Castile, Naples, Sicily, and ruler of territories in Burgundy (1500-1558)
- 12/01/2017 |
- Alex Age of Craft |
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This harness is part of a larger garniture (with exchange pieces) in Madrid's royal armoury. Named for its tonlet, a skirt that protects the wearer, it was used exclusively for unmounted combat in tournaments. It consists of a close helmet, gorget, curiass, symmetrical pauldrons (another indication it was not for the joust), vambraces, bifurcated gauntlets, a full set of articulated breeches (lacking its codpiece), tonlet, cuisses, poleyns, greaves, and steel-capped mail shoes. Both the vambraces and the cuisses are articulated so that there are no gaps at the elbow or knee joints.
Also known as the Tonlete de cacerrai (hunt tonlet), the harness's tonlet features a wide band at its base that depicts animals on the hunt: a bear, stag, and boar are all pursued by hunting dogs. Although now plain steel, these figures were once gilt and rendered to show fur and other fine details. The background on which they rest is etched and gilt, and the entire band is detachable.
The tonlet and cuirass are decorated with radiating bands that alternate between plain steel and etched and gilt designs. The tonlet is made of two pieces which close at the sides. The rest of the harness shows Helmschmid's touch, with bands of etched and gilt designs and roping bordering many of the pieces.
Like Henry VIII's tonlet harness in the Tower of London, Charles's tonlet harness is a model of engineering. Fully enclosing the body, each of these examples protected the wearer from harm without limiting movement so much that competition would be difficult.
Charles V obviously enjoyed foot combat, as this harness is one of three surviving tonlet harnesses attributed to him. One, known as the "Oakleaf tonlet" is in Madrid's Real Armería. The other, commissioned for him during his childhood by his grandfather Maximilian I, rests in Vienna.
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