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European Armor

Plate ArmorCreated by: PICRYLDated: 1500
Helm for the Joust of Peace (Stechhelm)
The full suit of armor is a feature of the very end of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance period. Plate armor is a type of personal body armor made from iron or steel plates. By about 1420, complete suits of plate armor had been developed in Europe. It commonly seen in the Western European armies especially during the Hundred Years War, the Wars of the Roses or the Italian Wars. European leaders in armoring techniques were northern Italians, Milan, and southern Germans.

A full suit of plate armour would have consisted of a helmet, a gorget (or bevor), spaulders, pauldrons with guardbraces to cover the armpits as was seen in French armour, or besagews (also known as rondels) which were mostly used in Gothic Armour, rerebraces, couters, vambraces, gauntlets, a cuirass (back and breastplate) with a fauld, tassets and a culet, a mail skirt, cuisses, poleyns, greaves, and sabatons. The very fullest sets, known as garnitures, more often made for jousting than war, included pieces of exchange, alternate pieces suiting different purposes, so that the suit could be configured for a range of different uses, for example fighting on foot or on a horse. The armor was articulated and covered a man's entire body completely from neck to toe.

Full suits of Gothic plate armor were worn on the battlefields of the Burgundian and Italian Wars. The most heavily armored troops were heavy cavalries, such as the gendarmes and early cuirassiers.

The specialized jousting armor associated with the medieval knights developed in the 16th century. Maximilian armor of the early 16th century is a style using heavy fluting and some decorative etching, as opposed to the plainer finish on 15th-century white armor. The shapes include influence from Italian styles. This era also saw the use of closed helms, as opposed to the 15th-century-style sallets and barbutes. During the early 16th century the helmet and neck guard design were reformed to produce the so-called Nürnberg armor, many of them masterpieces of workmanship and design.


As firearms became better and more common on the battlefield the utility of full armor gradually declined. After 1650, due to the development of the flintlock musket, which could penetrate armor from a considerable distance, plate armor was reduced to the simple breastplate (cuirass) worn by cuirassiers.

The decoration of fine armour greatly increased in the period. Such work required armorers to either collaborate with artists. Daniel Hopfer was an etcher of armour by training, who developed etching as a form of printmaking. Other artists such as Hans Holbein the Younger produced designs for armor. The Milanese armorer Filippo Negroli, from a leading dynasty of armorers, was the most famous modeller of figurative relief decoration on armor.
274 Media in collectionpage 1 of 3
Armor for a Member of the Barberini Family
Body armor, Armet, copper alloy, Europe

Body armor, Armet, copper alloy, Europe

Milan; said to have been found in Norfolk

Body armor, Burgonet
Great Sallet
Jousting Helm
Pommel Plate for a Saddle in the Style of the Late Middles Ages
Chess Piece in the Form of a Knight
Aquamanile in the Form of a Mounted Knight
Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)
Crinet, Germany
Shaffron and Crinet (Horse's Head and Neck Defenses)
Body armor, Close Helmet for Foot Combat
Composed Armor for Man and Horse
Composed Armor, copper alloy

Composed Armor, copper alloy

Right pauldron (shoulder defense) marked by Matthes Deutsch (German, Landshut, documented 1485–1505) Landshut

Tournament Helm, 15th century
Body armor, Breastplate with applied stop-ribs
Body armor, Armet, copper alloy, Italy, 15th century
Cod. 11093, fol. 46v: Fecht - und Ringbuch

Cod. 11093, fol. 46v: Fecht - und Ringbuch

Ganze Seite: Fechtszene zu Pferd, lavierte Federzeichnung, Südwestdeutschland, Mitte 15. Jhd.

Armor in the style of the 15th century
Body armor, Breastplate (Kastenbrust), 15th century, Augsburg, Bavaria
Cod. 11093, fol. 13r: Fecht - und Ringbuch
Cod. 11093, fol. 4r: Fecht - und Ringbuch

Cod. 11093, fol. 4r: Fecht - und Ringbuch

Ganze Seite: Fechtszene, lavierte Federzeichnung, Südwestdeutschland, Mitte 15. Jhd.

Body armor, Armet, 15th century

Body armor, Armet, 15th century

The armet is stamped with the marks of the Missaglia workshop, the leading Milanese armorers in the fifteenth century. Originally, it would have been fitted with a visor. Milan

Body armor, Sallet, 15th century
Body armor, Sallet, 15th century
Body armor, Armet, 15th century
Body armor, Sallet, 15th century
War Hat, 15th century
Elements of an Armor
Body armor, Sallet, 15th century
Composite Armor, 15th century
Left Gauntlet, 15th century
Body armor, Sallet, 15th century
Body armor, Armet, 15th century
Body armor, Pair of Tournament Pauldrons (Shoulder Defenses)
Body armor, Armet, 15th century
Body armor, Armet, 15th century
Pair of Thigh Defenses (Cuisses) with Knee Defenses (Poleyns)
Armor for the Joust of Peace
Armor, copper alloy

Armor, copper alloy

Gorget plate of the helmet possibly marked by Hans Michel (German, Nuremberg 1539–1599)

Helm for the Joust of Peace (Stechhelm)
Jousting Armor, copper alloy
Armor, 15th century

Armor, 15th century

Etched decoration on poleyns (knee defeneses) attributed to Heilig Jörg (German, active ca. 1490–1505)

Body armor, Armet, 15th century
Falling Buffe, 15th century
Elements of a Horse Armor
Close Helmet for the Tourney, Augsburg, Bavaria
Composed Armor

Composed Armor

Left elbow cop (h) marked by Guillem Margot (Flemish, active Brussels, recorded 1505–20) probably Milan

Vittore Carpaccio - Studies of a Seated Youth in Armor
Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor
Armor for Man and Horse Presumably Made for Baron Pankraz von Freyberg (1508–1565)
Body armor, Armet, 16th century
Body armor, Sallet, 16th century
Cuirass and Tassets (Torso and Hip Defense)
Armet, copper alloy, Europe, Italy, 16th century
Body armor, Breastplate, 16th century
Armored Skirt (Base)
Body armor, Armet, 16th century
Body armor, Breastplate, 16th century
Half Armor, 16th century

Half Armor, 16th century

Kolman Helmschmid (German, Augsburg 1471–1532) Augsburg

Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor
Reinforcing Pieces for the Tourney
Close Helmet, 16th century
Armor, 16th century
Portions of an Armor Garniture for Field and Tournament Made for Duke Nikolaus "The Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), Duke of Nesvizh and Olyka, Prince of the Empire, Grand Chancellor and Marshal of Lithuania
Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense) Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tournament Made for Duke Nikolaus "The Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), Duke of Nesvizh and Olyka, Prince of the Empire, Grand Chancellor and Marshal of Lithuania
Crinet Plate Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tournament Made for Duke Nikolaus "The Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), Duke of Nesvizh and Olyka, Prince of the Empire, Grand Chancellor and Marshal of Lithuania
Left Pauldron (Shoulder Defense) Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tournament Made for Duke Nikolaus "The Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), Duke of Nesvizh and Olyka, Prince of the Empire, Grand Chancellor and Marshal of Lithuania
Crinet Plate and Shaffron Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tournament Made for Duke Nikolaus "The Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), Duke of Nesvizh and Olyka, Prince of the Empire, Grand Chancellor and Marshal of Lithuania
Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)
Body armor, Armet for the Tourney, copper alloy
The Three Heathen Heroes (Die Drei Guten Haiden), from Heroes and Heroines
Armet, copper alloy, Europe, German, 16th Century
Armor, 16th century
Shield Bearer with the Ducal Arms of Saxony
Parts of an Inner Thigh Defense (Hoguine) for a Boy's Armor
Arm Defenses for a Costume Armor
Body armor, Armet with Mask Visor
Body armor, Triple-Crested Maximilian Armet
Saint Maurice, 16th century
Armor, 16th century
Portions of a Field Armor, Augsburg, Bavaria
Top Lames of Vambraces (Arm Defenses) from a Costume Armor
Backplate and Hoguine (Rump Defense) from a Costume Armor
Body armor, Maximilian Armet, 16th century
Body armor, Gorget, 16th century
Body armor, Helmet and Gorget, copper alloy
Body armor, Closed Burgonet, 16th century
Three-Quarter Armor
Portions of a Costume Armor
Pair of Vambraces (Arm Defenses) from a Costume Armor
Body armor, Left Shoulder Defense (Pauldron), copper alloy
Armor Garniture, Probably of King Henry VIII of England (reigned 1509–47)
Armor Garniture, Probably of King Henry VIII of England (reigned 1509–47)
Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense) of Ottheinrich, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1502–1559)
Daniel Hopfer - Close Helmet for a Boy
Pair of Tassets of Emperor Charles V of Austria (1500–1558)
Armet with Mask Visor in Form of a Rooster
Body armor, Breastplate with Tassets, copper alloy
Left Pauldron (Shoulder Defense) from a Boy's Costume Armor
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