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Dressing in Steel: Part One

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Armor Garniture, Probably of King Henry VIII of England (reigned 1509–47)

Decoration attributed to Hans Holbein the Younger (German, Augsburg 1497/98–1543 London)

Date:
dated 1527
Geography:
Greenwich
Culture:
British, Greenwich
Medium:
Steel, etched and gilt overall
Dimensions:
Wt., 62 lb. 12 oz. (28.45 kg); H., 73 in. (185.4 cm)
Classification:
Armor for Horse and Man
Credit Line:
Purchase, William H. Riggs Gift and Rogers Fund, 1919
Accession Number:
19.131.1a–r, t–w, .2a–g, l
  • Description

    This is the earliest dated armor from the royal workshops at Greenwich, which were established in 1515 by Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47) to produce armors for himself and his court. It is also the earliest surviving Greenwich garniture, an armor made with a series of exchange and reinforcing pieces by which it could be adapted for use in battle and in different forms of the tournament. Furthermore, the overall etching and gilding place it among the most richly decorated of all Greenwich armors. The design of the decoration is attributed to the Swiss artist Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543), who worked at the English court from 1526 to 1528.
    The surviving exchange elements of this armor are a reinforcing breastplate with lance rest for use in the field or in the mounted tournament with lances; a left-hand gauntlet reinforce, or manifer, also used in the tournament with lances; and a right-hand locking gauntlet for the mounted tournament with swords.
    A highly unusual and innovative feature is the ventral plate, which was worn strapped to the chest beneath the breastplate in order to lessen the weight supported from the shoulders. A ventral plate is found on only one other armor, made in Greenwich in 1540 for Henry VIII.
    This armor is believed to have been made for Henry VIII and presented by him to the French ambassador François de La Tour d’Auvergne, viscount of Turenne, who led a diplomatic mission to London in 1527. After the viscount’s death in 1532, the armor presumably passed to his friend Galiot de Genouilhac, grand master of artillery and grand ecuyer (master of the horse) of France, from whose descendants it came to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: The date 1527 appears on the following elements: central plate of backplate (at top), lower lame of lower loin defense, and lower tace lame.

  • See also
22741

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