Thursday, June 3, 2010
This is a German armour on display in Nurenburg. The general form of this armour is designed to make the owner look out of proportion. Observe the size of the upper arms...they are bigger than the legs! The huge rondels, the odd stacked gorget, and the really open face helm conform to civilian fashions of the day. Lets get over that shall we, and see what we can see. Click on the images to enlarge them.
The first thing you see is a lance rest. So this is a jousting armour right? Well, maybe. Or maybe that was just the style of the time. But it was most definitely a horseman's armour. The lack of armour on the inside of the legs tells us that. The profusion of decoration merely means the owner wanted to show people that he had lots of money. My personal feeling is that if somebody went to all the trouble to decorate the armour he would probably not want to get it scratched up in the joust. But hey, maybe he knows an armourer.
The arms and gauntlets are general issue...would have been worn by anybody from Malta to Inverness. The elbows are those big late period pieces with the huge wrap around wings. The gauntlets are flared, a little bell shaped to allow the wrist to "break" from side to side. In common with almost all the gauntlets of the age, you can not curl your wrist inwards when you wear these gauntlets, though of course, you can put your hand on the ground and heave yourself back up...they bend backwards just fine. The scales for fingers is very unusual for a German armour...normally the Germans liked the knobby knuckle look. And the Spadlers up top are neat and plain, and the fact that they are symmetrical left to right puts the last nail into the idea that this would have been used for jousting!
This armour is worth taking a little closer look at. From a distance, you would think it was Italian...it has those nice smooth lines and not a bit of that fluting which we normally associate with German armour. I should develop a big essay about the movement of armour styles from Italy to Germany to England to France, however I think its been done. This being only a mere blog, we will just take a quick look at these pics I imported from the Nuremburg Museum web site. Suffice it to say that in one year, everything changed, and made it a real trick to be able to spot the country of origin from a distance.
I originally studied this picture because it has such a great cod piece and fauld arrangement. Its very complicated, the faulds and the tassets are designed to match neatly together, the only way you can tell one from the other is by the buckles in fact! It really IS a three lame fauld, the big difference of course is that the lames are sort of "vee" shaped. I would have thought that the point of the vee would have made a weak spot, but the rolled edge at the top of the cod arch would stiffen things up remarkably. I see the armour maker had a really difficult time making that arch lie neatly...glad I am not the only one!
Those little spikes at the top of the tassets towards the inside...I'm open to suggestions...I just don't know why they are there. If a reader does know...well, the comments section is below!
I don't usually talk a lot about the decoration of armours since even then, the armour let this armour out of his artisan hands and into the hands of an artist. However the faux roping along the top edges of all the plates is a bit unusual, and makes a nice fancy decoration.
The buckles which hold the tassets onto the fauld are also worth a second look. They are not centre bar buckles, but rather, more standard "dee" ring buckles, and the keepers are spaced well away from the buckle itself. The "keepers" (those little metal things that keep the free ends of the leather under control) are attached to the metal tasset. A great idea, especially since they match the buckle itself, as well as that of the surprisingly light duty main armour waist belt. And of course, I don't think I have ever seen tassets which have straps which attach to the leg, but since they are made up of six lames each, there had better be a way to keep them tucked in nice and tight.
The cod piece itself. Hmmm. This is a masterpiece of the metal worker's art! A very devil to make. It probably takes twice as long to make that codpiece as it would to make the faulds and tassets together. I could not do it without a fair amount of welding!
A closeup of the breast plate. The armourer had his placqart sliding under the breastplate. An arrangement which is new to me...one does not normally see that! It likely helps the owner to look less plump. Clearly this was a time when skinny was the thing to be. The decoration also provides a bit of tromp l'oil, making the fellow look thinner than he actually was. A great trick borrowed from the clothing of the time.
The breastplate narrows as much as he dares in front, and side pieces ride in slots to allow the fellow to be able to get his arms forward, say, to grasp his reins.
The fastening systems are also not the usual jousting types...observe the turning keys for the spadlers up top, the cords holding the rondels in place, (they must bang around in a MOST annoying fashion when he rides!) are just two items which would get sheared away pretty quickly in a real battle.