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European Armor

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.
Helm for the Joust of Peace (Stechhelm)
1249
1249
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2016
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2016
317 Media in collectionpage 1 of 4
Aquamanile in the Form of a Mounted Knight

Aquamanile in the Form of a Mounted Knight

Aquamanilia, from the Latin words meaning "water" and "hands," served to pour water over the hands of priests before celebrating Mass and of diners at table. This aquamanile, in the form of a horse and rider, e... more

Chess Piece in the Form of a Knight

Chess Piece in the Form of a Knight

Board games, especially chess, were integral to medieval courtly culture, as they were regarded as essential to honing tactical skills for the battlefield. Chess pieces fashioned for aristocratic households ref... more

Composed Armor

Composed Armor

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

Breastplate with applied stop-ribs

Breastplate with applied stop-ribs

This early example of a one-piece breastplate comes from a large horde of armor from the fortress of the knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem on the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, which fell to the ... more

Tournament Helm

Tournament Helm

Although very similar helmets are depicted in early fifteenth century works of art, almost no other actual examples of this type exist today. Perhaps originally designed for use in battle, it appears to have be... more

Armet

Armet

This is one of the earliest complete examples of an armet, the characteristic headpiece worn in Italy by mounted soldiers from about 1410 to about 1510. It is stamped with the armorer's name, LIONARDO, and his ... more

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

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

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

Cod. 11093, fol. 13r: Fecht - und Ringbuch
Breastplate (Kastenbrust)

Breastplate (Kastenbrust)

Although it was in wide use across Europe by the early fifteenth century, very little plate armor survives from that period. This breastplate is one of the earliest German examples in existence. It is almost id... more

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.

Armet

Armet

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

Sallet

Sallet

During the fifteenth century, the city of Basel, which became part of the Swiss Confederation in 1501, was a thriving center for armor making. Despite this fact, almost no armor from Basel can be identified tod... more

Sallet

Sallet

The term sallet (from the Italian celata) is applied to a wide variety of fifteenth-century helmets that have open faces or, if visored, leave the lower face and neck exposed. This tall form of sallet is typica... more

War Hat

War Hat

The graceful spiral shape distinguishes this as a masterpiece of fifteenth-century armor making. Similar war hats, usually with gilt ornaments mounted on the apex, are often represented in Franco-Burgundian tap... more

Armet

Armet

This is a particularly good example of the fully developed form of Italian armet about fifty years after the style was created. It is stamped with marks used by the Missaglia workshop from 1452 to 1496. Milan

Sallet
Sallet
Elements of an Armor

Elements of an Armor

Few complete armors have survived from the fifteenth century, making this one important despite its fragmentary condition. It was reportedly found in an Austrian church. The pieces were probably assembled in th... more

Left Gauntlet

Left Gauntlet

This left gauntlet, while unmarked, is of an Innsbruck type. The armorers of Innsbruck, capital of the Austrian Tirol, thrived under the patronage of the Habsburg court and produced armor that was international... more

Sallet

Sallet

This sallet is by Jörg Wagner (recorded 1485–92). The armorers of Innsbruck, capital of the Austrian Tirol, thrived under the patronage of the Habsburg court and produced armor that was internationally renowned... more

Composite Armor

Composite Armor

The elements constituting this armor bear the marks of different armorers, all of whom were active in Innsbruck in the 1480s and 1490s. The sallet is by Jörg Wagner (recorded 1485–92), the breastplate and backp... more

Armet
Pair of Tournament Pauldrons (Shoulder Defenses)

Pair of Tournament Pauldrons (Shoulder Defenses)

These pauldrons were part of an armor for the German joust (Gestech), fought with blunted lances. Their maker, Lorenz Helmschmid, was the court armorer of Emperor Maximilian I and one of the leading armorers of... more

Armet
Armor for the Joust of Peace

Armor for the Joust of Peace

This colorful equestrian figure is a faithful reconstruction of a German jouster of ca. 1500. Among the Metropolitan Museum’s earliest acquisitions of arms and armor, purchased with the Duc de Dino Collection i... more

Armet
Armor

Armor

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

Close Helmet for the Tourney

Close Helmet for the Tourney

The tourney was a mock combat fought in an open field between two groups of mounted contestants armed with blunted lances and swords. Armor for the tourny usually was similar to that used in battle, with the ad... more

Armet
Armor

Armor

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

Helm for the Joust of Peace (Stechhelm)

Helm for the Joust of Peace (Stechhelm)

The Stechhelm formed part of a highly specialized tournament armor worn solely for the Gestech, or German joust, fought with blunted lances. The object was to break lances or to unhorse the opponent. This helme... more

Jousting Armor

Jousting Armor

This colorful equestrian figure is a faithful reconstruction of a German jouster of ca. 1500. Among the Metropolitan Museum’s earliest acquisitions of arms and armor, purchased with the Duc de Dino Collection i... more

Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor

Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor

This armor is a rare example of the fluted, or "Maximilian," style in its earliest stages. The armor was made in either Mühlau or in neighboring Innsbruck soon after the Emperor Maximilian I (1459–1519) establi... more

Studies of a Seated Youth in Armor

Studies of a Seated Youth in Armor

This celebrated drawing depicts a young model dressed in armor and positioned as though he were on horseback, his right arm raised and holding the shaft of a spear in his gloved hand. The figure is supplemented... more

Reinforcing Pieces for the Tourney

Reinforcing Pieces for the Tourney

In the late fifteenth century, specialized exchange and reinforcing pieces were devised that allowed a single field armor to be adapted for use in various forms of the tournament. The ensemble of pieces was kno... more

Breastplate

Breastplate

The hatched ground and lively nature of the decoration are excellent examples of the highest quality of etching found on Italian armor in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Also characteristic ar... more

Armet
Sallet

Sallet

Innsbruck, Tyrol

Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor

Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor

This is a rare example of Italian armor decorated with fluted surfaces in the German fashion. Its etched and richly gilt decoration is derived from Christian symbolism and the Bible. The band across the top of ... more

Close Helmet

Close Helmet

As the only known work that may be ascribed with reasonable certainty to Gian Giacomo Negroli (1463–1543), this previously unrecorded helmet is a major addition to the small corpus of works marked or signed by ... more

Armet
Armet
Breastplate

Breastplate

The breastplate's rounded form and ribbed surface anticipate the appearance of a style of fluted armor popular in Germany and Austria during the early sixteenth century that is called the "Maximilian style." Ha... more

Half Armor

Half Armor

Kolman Helmschmid (German, Augsburg 1471–1532) Augsburg

Cuirass and Tassets (Torso and Hip Defense)

Cuirass and Tassets (Torso and Hip Defense)

The decoration of this armor is an outstanding example of German figural etching, inspired by contemporary print sources, as it was used to embellish armor. The etching has been attributed to Daniel Hopfer, a n... more

Armored Skirt (Base)

Armored Skirt (Base)

The base was an imitation in steel of the cloth skirt that was sometimes worn over armor. The deep, arched cutouts in front and back allowed the wearer to sit on horseback; the close-set holes along these openi... more

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

This shaffron is noteworthy not only for its large size but also for the unusual sculptural quality imparted by the boldly roped double ridges and the boss on the forehead. The fluted surfaces increased the rig... more

Armet for the Tourney

Armet for the Tourney

The visor is fitted with an unusual reinforce depicting the type of grille defense that might be used on a helmet intended for a tournament with swords or clubs. This suggests it was originally part of a garnit... more

Armor

Armor

Helmet attributed to Kolman Helmschmid (German, Augsburg 1471–1532) Augsburg and Landshut

The Three Heathen Heroes (Die Drei Guten Haiden), from Heroes and Heroines

The Three Heathen Heroes (Die Drei Guten Haiden), from Heroes and Hero...

Standing, from left to right, are Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, each fully armored and holding coat of arms. From a series of six woodcuts each with groupings of three heroes or heroines. Hans... more

Armor

Armor

At the turn of the sixteenth century, German armorers abandoned the slender lines of the late Gothic style and adopted the fuller, more rounded forms favored in Italy. In the new style, the shallow parallel cha... more

Shield Bearer with the Ducal Arms of Saxony

Shield Bearer with the Ducal Arms of Saxony

The elegant lines of this youthful figure complement the vividly painted heraldic shield he supports. This boy wears contemporary armor fancifully embellished with turbot-shell shoulder pieces (pauldrons) and w... more

Armet with Mask Visor

Armet with Mask Visor

Nuremberg; Innsbruck

Armor

Armor

At the turn of the sixteenth century, German armorers abandoned the slender lines of the late Gothic style and adopted the fuller, more rounded forms favored in Italy. In the new style, the shallow parallel cha... more

Armet
Saint Maurice

Saint Maurice

Originally the wing of an altarpiece, this panel represents Maurice, the Roman legion commander martyred for refusing to slaughter Christians. It was likely commissioned by Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg (149... more

Portions of a Field Armor

Portions of a Field Armor

These pieces were once part of a complete armor designed for use in battle. Its missing parts include the helmet, collar, gauntlets, and leg defenses. Even though incomplete, this armor is notable for the quali... more

Three-Quarter Armor

Three-Quarter Armor

The pauldrons (shoulder defenses), and vambraces (arm defenses) of this armor are attributed to Kolman Helmschmid based on comparison with his known works. The associated helmet’s (acc. no. 50.237.2) distinctiv... more

Closed Burgonet

Closed Burgonet

This helmet combines features common to burgonets, notably the projecting peak and falling buffe, with close-helmet construction, in which all elements of the face defense pivot together at the sides of the bow... more

Pair of Vambraces (Arm Defenses) from a Costume Armor

Pair of Vambraces (Arm Defenses) from a Costume Armor

This armor reproduces in steel the extravagant puffed and slashed costume of the German Landsknechte (mercenary infantry troops). The matching pieces are preserved in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris. Coming from th... more

Top Lames of Vambraces (Arm Defenses) from a Costume Armor

Top Lames of Vambraces (Arm Defenses) from a Costume Armor

This armor reproduces in steel the extravagant puffed and slashed costume of the German Landsknechte (mercenary infantry troops). The matching pieces are preserved in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris. Coming from th... more

Backplate and Hoguine (Rump Defense) from a Costume Armor

Backplate and Hoguine (Rump Defense) from a Costume Armor

This armor reproduces in steel the extravagant puffed and slashed costume of the German Landsknechte (mercenary infantry troops). The matching pieces are preserved in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris. Coming from th... more

Left Shoulder Defense (Pauldron)

Left Shoulder Defense (Pauldron)

This is an exchange piece for the armor (now in the Armeria Reale, Turin) made for the Nuremberg patrician Wilhelm Rieter von Bocksberg (died 1528). Kolman Helmschmid (German, Augsburg 1471–1532) Augsburg

Gorget

Gorget

Burgonets and gorgets were among the most practical and widely used forms of armor for protecting the vital areas of head and neck. Examples like this gorget were worn by common soldiers, mercenaries, and mili... more

Portions of a Costume Armor

Portions of a Costume Armor

This armor reproduces in steel the extravagant puffed and slashed costume of the German Landsknechte (mercenary infantry troops). The matching pieces are preserved in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris. Coming from th... more

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

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

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 surviv... more

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

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

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 surviv... more

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense) of Ottheinrich, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1502–1559)

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense) of Ottheinrich, Count Palatine of the ...

This shaffron is decorated with narrow bands of etched foliate ornament on a blackened, dotted ground in a manner associated with armor from Nuremberg. The decoration includes the date 1529 (in the center of th... more

Armet with Mask Visor in Form of a Rooster

Armet with Mask Visor in Form of a Rooster

This helmet is remarkable for the three-dimensional figure of a rooster's head in the center of the visor, which is an outstanding example of sculpture in steel and is unprecedented even among mask visors. prob... more

Pair of Tassets of Emperor Charles V of Austria (1500–1558)

Pair of Tassets of Emperor Charles V of Austria (1500–1558)

These tassets originally were part of a very elaborate armor. Their decoration features the pillars of Hercules, supported by griffins, and the firesteel of Burgundy, which were badges of Charles V. Kolman Helm... more

Breastplate with Tassets

Breastplate with Tassets

Originally this armor would have included a matching helmet, arm defenses, and gauntlets. Although finely decorated, it was designed for practical use and probably belonged to a courtier serving in the armies o... more

Close Helmet for a Boy

Close Helmet for a Boy

The form and decoration of this helmet relate closely to the late work of Kolman Helmschmid and early pieces by his son Desiderius, both leading armorers who worked for the Habsburg court. The etching is in the... more

Left Tasset (Thigh Defense) from a Boy's Costume Armor

Left Tasset (Thigh Defense) from a Boy's Costume Armor

This left thigh, along with a matching left shoulder also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (acc. no. 29.158.121), is from an armor ordered in 1532 by Archduke Ferdinand (later Emperor Ferdinand I) for hi... more

Left Pauldron (Shoulder Defense) from a Boy's Costume Armor

Left Pauldron (Shoulder Defense) from a Boy's Costume Armor

This left shoulder, along with a matching left thigh also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (acc. no. 29.158.304), is from an armor ordered in 1532 by Archduke Ferdinand (later Emperor Ferdinand I) for hi... more

Armet