Thursday, December 18, 2008


Research is never ending. These pictures came in attached to an email by a customer who was attempting to explain what he wanted. So I don't know the provenance...and will give credit if any body DOES know.

The first pic, the top one, is a drawing of a statue. Such statues adorned the tombs of influential knights, and are often found in the churches that they supported. Chances are really good that the armour, if it was any good, was handed down from son to son, and was eventually battered to oblivion in the incessent wars that plagued the middle ages. Any surviving bits might end up as statuary in a great hall some place. But this one is so pretty and so functional that it would have continued to be used as long as it survived. Note that statuary is "secondary" research. Presumably the artist had access to the original armour but you know he would have filled in any missing pieces, fixed any dents or rust spots, and maybe used "artistic licence" to make the waist a bit narrower, the chest a little deeper, and the legs a little slimmer.
It is a two piece breast plate, no doubt with a two piece back plate. The placqart has two deep channels in it which decorate what would otherwise be a fairly plain armour, (something I have never seen before) and it is attached to the breastplate by a short, but robust leather strap. (Oh, clicking on the picture will enlarge it to be able to see the details better....) The waist is actually very high....about a handspan above his naval. This will allow the owner to ride a horse with no possiblility that the breastplate would ride up and catch him under the chin. The shoulders are assymetrical...the left shoulder has a haute piece (fence) which will protect the guy from horizontal sword strikes from the normally right handed opponents, and is less complex. Both sides have true "haute pieces", that is to say, armour which sits on top of the underlying shoulder armour to protect it. These haute pieces were often designed to detactch, and fly off under the impact of the lance, forming a sort of "reactive armour". My jury is out on the effectivness of the reactive haute pieces, but I am certain that as "cantels of armour get carved off the players, the crowd cheers ever louder". This may not be a "jousting" armour, even though there is a lance rest, it actually looks more like his "every day" sort of battle wear, with some adaptations for the joust. The four fauld lames would scrunch up and protect themselves against the impact when he is riding. I note also that he has insured his dynastic jewels with a chain mail fauld.
The tassets are pretty...they seem to have that "depressed into a groove" styling which is, again, fairly uncommon and the legs seem almost to belong to another armour...they have none of the clean lines of the arms, but instead are all sharp points and fluted cops.
Other interesting items to take not of would be the lack of gauntlets on the hands, and that they seem to be holding something which has been removed. Not his helm...his head is being supported on his frog faced helm. I suspect it might be a cross, or a world globe, or even possibly a model of the church he is interred in...not uncommon if the fellow had built the church with his own money. Moving on to the second armour....this statue has been battered a bit by time and Protestants but they left enough to analyze. One thing which catches one's eye right off is the very high gorget. This fella would not have been able to look down. It is pretty uncommon to see such a long neck on a gentleman...though it is pretty common on ladies. The hair looks like it has been braided into an arming cap. It would not BE an arming cap of course, since all such effigies are bare headed.
The shoulders are fairly straightforward simple shoulders, with haute pieces protecting the complex and expensive lames underneath. I note that the haute pieces (maybe they should be called rondells) are different left and right...the one on the right has a cut out to accomodate the lance. The lance rest has been hammered off this statue but the base remains.
The breast plate and placquart are standard two piece, joined at the centre with a strap. The purpose of the strap is not to allow the armour to slide up and down for when the owner stands up or sits down, but rather to allow the breastplate to rock from side to side, and to allow the owner to twist his body in the saddle. You need to be able to twist your body when you deliver a sword blow, which is why this armour is more likely to be used in a real battle, whereas the single piece armour is better if all you want to do is to joust. The fellow has a nice pair of gauntlets, what we call "mitten" gauntlets which look to be quite serviceable. His left hand seems to have gone the way of his nose though. This is a more usual position to see the hands...together as if praying.

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Jennifer said...

Really beautiful stuff here, Bill. I continued to be amazed by your craftsmanship.

Anonymous said...

By chance do know if the client can recall where he found the pictures?

That may help track down the publications / sources...