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Steel breastplate


Height: 33.600 cm
Width: 40.300 cm

Bequeathed by William Burges

M&ME 1881,8-2,50

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    Steel breastplate

    From Augsburg, Germany, around AD 1520

    A highly-decorated piece of 'parade armour'

    A breastplate was used, as the name suggests, to protect the upper torso. This example, made of fluted steel, would have been fastened around the torso by leather straps and buckles which were fitted through the loops at either side. The shape combines the fluted sections of earlier German armour with the more rounded style of Northern Italian armour, which was introduced in the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519).

    The breastplate is etched with a female figure between dolphins and with floral ornament. It was made in the Augsburg workshop of Koloman Helmschmid (working 1513-79). The etched designs are based on engravings by Daniel Hopfer of Augsburg (about 1493-1536), and comprise trailing vine, olive and oak foliage. The designs are etched onto the plain surfaces and form a deliberate contrast to the fluted sections and the ropework. From the early sixteenth century onwards, sheets of engraved designs were circulated throughout Europe, especially in Italy, Germany, France and the Low Countries, and were often used as the basis for the decoration of metalwork.

    This magnificent, highly-decorated breastplate would have formed part of a suit of 'parade' armour, worn only on ceremonial occasions, and not in battle.

    S. Grancsay, 'Armour with etching attributed to Daniel Hopfer', Bulletin of the Metropolitan M, 34 (1939)

    C. Blair, European armour 1066-1700 (London, Batsford, 1979)


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    On display: Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

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    Prints and printmaking, £12.99

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