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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 3 of 4
Infantry Armor

Infantry Armor

The armorers of Nuremberg were famous for their ability to produce large quantities of plate armor relatively quickly. In the second half of the sixteenth century, they specialized in making high-quality infant... more

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

This shaffron matches one of the best-preserved French armors dating from the reign of Henry IV (1589–1610). It demonstrates the French preference for completely gilt armors. A saddle, now in the Musée de l'Arm... more

Armet

Armet

Pisa

Armor for Heavy Cavalry with Matching Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Armor for Heavy Cavalry with Matching Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

One of the best-preserved French armors dating from the reign of Henry IV (1589–1610), this example demonstrates the French preference for completely gilt armors. It retains its original yellow silk helmet lini... more

Armor with Matching Shaffron and Saddle Plates

Armor with Matching Shaffron and Saddle Plates

This exceptionally well-preserved armor was made for an adolescent or a small adult who was undoubtedly a member of an important noble family. It belongs to a select group of Milanese armors made between 1590 a... more

Armet
Cabasset
Armet
Burgonet
Pair of Gauntlets

Pair of Gauntlets

The battle scenes depict soldiers wearing contemporary armor and include banners with the arms of France. These gauntlets are part of an embossed and gilt parade armor that once belonged to the English collecto... more

Armor for Heavy Cavalry

Armor for Heavy Cavalry

One of the best-preserved French armors dating from the reign of Henry IV (1589–1610), this example demonstrates the French preference for completely gilt armors. It retains its original yellow silk helmet lini... more

Knight with Lance

Knight with Lance

Baccio del Bianco (Italian, Florence 1604–1656 Escorial)

Burgonet

Burgonet

This helmet ranks among the best examples of a type that was fashionable in France and the southern Netherlands in the early seventeenth century. It is remarkable for the excellence of its workmanship, particul... more

Half Armor

Half Armor

Although made in Nuremberg, this cavalryman’s armor is an unusual mix of different regional styles. The helmet is based on an eastern European type known as the Zischägge, which was inspired by Turkish examples... more

Lobster-Tail Burgonet for a Harquebusier

Lobster-Tail Burgonet for a Harquebusier

The rich decoration of this helmet is exceptional, covering it completely with wide bands of chiseled and punched floral designs alternating in silver and gold. Although it was once believed that its neck plate... more

Cuirassier Armor

Cuirassier Armor

The construction and build of this armor are typical of a cuirassier’s harness, a type developed toward the end of the sixteenth century in response to the growing use and efficiency of firearms. The advent of ... more

Design for an Armor with Tournament Headdress

Design for an Armor with Tournament Headdress

View in three-quarters of a design for an armor (facing the right). The armor itself is relatively simple, but the helmet has been decorated with an elaborate headdress, shaped like a lizard with a very lavish ... more

Design for an Armor Helmet with Tournament Headdress

Design for an Armor Helmet with Tournament Headdress

Side view of a design for an armor helmet with an open visor (facing the left). The design of the helmet itself is raelatively simple, but it has been decorated with an elaborate arched, almost s-shaped headdre... more

Design for an Armor with Tournament Headdress

Design for an Armor with Tournament Headdress

View in three-quarters of a design for an armor (facing the right). The armor itself is relatively simple, but the helmet has been decorated with an elaborate headdress, shaped like a lizard with a very lavish ... more

Pikeman’s Armor

Pikeman’s Armor

In battle formation, pikemen stood together in tight ranks and used their pikes to defend unarmored musketeers. The latter were deployed on the flanks of the pikemen and retreated behind them to reload after fi... more

Burgonet for a Cuirassier

Burgonet for a Cuirassier

The surfaces are somewhat crudely etched with an overall pattern of strapwork cartouches enclosing trophies, all set against a cross-hatched ground. The decoration and the distinctive profile of the helmet are ... more

Design for an with Tournament Headdress

Design for an with Tournament Headdress

Side view of a design for an armor helmet with an open visor (facing the left). The design of the helmet itself is relatively simple, but it has been decorated with an elaborate headdress made up out of tiers o... more

Design for an Armor with Tournament Headdress

Design for an Armor with Tournament Headdress

Side view of a design for an armor helmet with an open visor (facing the left). The design of the helmet itself is relatively simple, but it has been decorated with an elaborate headdress made up out of the upp... more

Armor for a Member of the Barberini Family

Armor for a Member of the Barberini Family

This armor is a deluxe version of a typical cuirassier’s armor, worn by heavy cavalry armed with sword and pistols. Its rich ornament and light weight, however, indicate that it was designed primarily for cerem... more

Philip IV (1605–1665) in Parade Armor

Philip IV (1605–1665) in Parade Armor

Gaspar de Crayer painted several portraits of Philip IV, probably commissioned by the Marqués de Leganés, who served as Philip’s emissary to the Spanish court in Brussels in 1627–28. Here the young king of Spai... more

Helmet for a Harquebusier

Helmet for a Harquebusier

Harquebusiers were the last type of cavalry to wear armor in England before it went out of use in the mid- to late seventeenth century. This harquebusier's helmet is rare and important for its richly engraved b... more

Burgonet

Burgonet

This is a rare, late example of French embossed armor. The gilt fleur-de-lis rivet heads along the edges, the fleur-de-lis plate at the apex of the bowl, and the laurel branches around the collar suggest it was... more

Shirt of Mail and Plate

Shirt of Mail and Plate

This shirt ranks as one of the most beautiful surviving Mughal armors and is among the earliest dated examples. The armor plates are covered in two-color gold and incised through to the dark iron with Qur'anic ... more

Three-Quarter Armor
Back Plate of a Gorget

Back Plate of a Gorget

The central scene, embossed in low relief, shows a contemporary battle between horsemen armed with pistols and swords. It is flanked by elaborately engraved panoplies comprising trophies of armor and weapons, a... more

Armor of Infante Luis, Prince of Asturias (1707–1724)

Armor of Infante Luis, Prince of Asturias (1707–1724)

Possibly the last royal armor made in Europe, this is believed to have been presented to the five-year-old Infante Luis (1707–1724), prince of Asturias, by his great-grandfather Louis XIV of France (1638–1715, ... more

Cuirass

Cuirass

The cuirass, from the royal armory of Hyderabad, bears the name of a later ruler, the nizam ‘Alī Khān (reigned 1762–1803), who led the state of Hyderabad through a period of economic growth during which it beca... more

Gorget of an Officer of the King's American Regiment

Gorget of an Officer of the King's American Regiment

Gorgets are a symbolic vestige of armor worn by officers in the eighteenth century as a sign of rank. This gorget has the emblems of the King's American Regiment, which was raised in New York in 1776 by the Loy... more

Field Armor

Field Armor

This fluted armor is typical of the battle dress of the knightly cavalry of southern Germany and Austria in the 1520s. It is composed of elements from at least three very similar armors, all made in Nuremberg w... more

Pommel Plate for a Saddle in the Style of the Late Middles Ages

Pommel Plate for a Saddle in the Style of the Late Middles Ages

Due to its ambitious design, large scale, and bold use of gilding and enamel, this pommel plate is an excellent example of the fakes made in the late medieval and early Renaissance styles for which the Marcy wo... more

Helmet (Khula Khud)

Helmet (Khula Khud)

Despite the modernization of Iran’s military in the nineteenth century, traditional armor continued to be manufactured. Its purpose, however, is uncertain: for military parades, as costume for religious or hist... more

Field Armor

Field Armor

This fluted armor is typical of the battle dress of the knightly cavalry of southern Germany and Austria in the 1520s. It is composed of elements from at least three different but very similar armors, all made ... more

Cuirassier's Armor

Cuirassier's Armor

This armor appears to belong to a small group of finely made Dutch armors from the first third of the seventeenth century. The date is found in the decoration of the lowest plates of the poleyns (knee defenses)... more

Cuirass

Cuirass

This is one of only two known cuirasses with rich etched and gilt ornamentation dating from the restoration of the French monarchy, and a very rare example of nineteenth-century luxury armor. Forged and decorat... more

Miniature Italian-Style Armor for Man and Horse

Miniature Italian-Style Armor for Man and Horse

Possibly made by Granger LeBlanc (French, active ca. 1840–70)

[The Armor of Philip III]

[The Armor of Philip III]

For a sixteenth-century nobleman, a finely decorated suit of armor was indispensable. The suit defined one's social standing, confirmed the refinement of one's taste, and made it publicly clear that the bearer ... more

The Man in Armor

The Man in Armor

Frank Eugene (American, New York 1865–1936 Munich)

Right Thigh and Knee Defense (Cuisse and Poleyn) for the Armor of Sir John 
Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623)

Right Thigh and Knee Defense (Cuisse and Poleyn) for the Armor of Sir ...

This leg piece, a superb example of hammerwork, etching, and gilding, was made by Daniel Tachaux in 1913, as part of his comprehensive restoration of the late sixteenth-century Scudamore armors (on permanent di... more

Field Armor Probably of Sir John 
Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623)

Field Armor Probably of Sir John Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623)

Sir John Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623) was appointed a Gentleman Pensioner by Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603) in 1571 or 1572 and knighted in 1592. This armor probably was commissioned by him in preparati... more

Field Armor Probably of Sir John 
Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623)

Field Armor Probably of Sir John Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623)

Sir John Scudamore (1541 or 1542–1623) was appointed a Gentleman Pensioner by Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558–1603) in 1571 or 1572 and knighted in 1592. This armor probably was commissioned by him in preparati... more

Infantry Armor

Infantry Armor

The open-faced burgonet and the absence of a lance rest identify this as an armor for infantry or light cavalry use. The quality of its construction and decoration indicates that it was probably intended for an... more

Prototype for Helmet Model No. 2

Prototype for Helmet Model No. 2

Daniel Tachaux was the most talented armorer working in Paris when he was hired by Dr. Bashford Dean (1867–1928) in 1909 to maintain the rapidly growing collection of Arms and Armor at the Metropolitan Museum. ... more

American Helmet Model No. 5

American Helmet Model No. 5

Among the fifteen numbered helmet ptototypes developed by Bashford Dean in 1917 and 1918 in the Armor Shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the US Government during World War I, this type, Model No. 5, was... more

Armor 16th century war.

Armor 16th century war.

Wartime images: Free images of war, available for commercial use and free download. Copyright-free, no attribution required.

Close Helmet for Foot Combat

Close Helmet for Foot Combat

This helmet was intended for use in a tournament fought on foot over a waist-high barrier. Because it was made for the tournament, it is about twice as heavy as a battle helmet of the same period. The presence ... more

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

Crinet Plate Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tournament Made for D...

This crinet plate, along with the matching shaffron also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (21.42), form part of an important garniture of armor for field and tournament use made for Nikolaus "the Black" ... more

Armor for Man and Horse

Armor for Man and Horse

Kunz Lochner was one of the few Nuremberg armorers of the mid-sixteenth century to achieve an international reputation. His patrons included the Holy Roman Emperor, the dukes of Saxony, and the king of Poland. ... more

Side Panel of a Flank Defense (Crupper) from a Horse Armor

Side Panel of a Flank Defense (Crupper) from a Horse Armor

Once part of a very elaborate horse armor, this crupper panel is one of the few surviving examples from the fifteenth century to retain its original blued and gilt decoration.

Jousting Helm

Jousting Helm

Very little Italian tournament armor survives from the fifteenth century, making this helm very rare. It was designed for use in the joust, a contest between two mounted combatants armed with blunted lances. Th... more

Armor for a Member of the Barberini Family

Armor for a Member of the Barberini Family

This armor is a deluxe version of a typical cuirassier’s armor, worn by heavy cavalry armed with sword and pistols. Its rich ornament and light weight, however, indicate that it was designed primarily for cerem... more

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

Crinet Plate and Shaffron Belonging to an Armor for Field and Tourname...

This crinet plate and shaffron form part of an important garniture of armor for field and tournament use made for Nikolaus "the Black" Radziwill (1515–1565), duke of Nieśwież and Olyka, prince of the empire, an... more

Composed Armor

Composed Armor

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

Shaffron and Crinet (Horse's Head and Neck Defenses)

Shaffron and Crinet (Horse's Head and Neck Defenses)

This is a rare example of a late Gothic shaffron preserved with its matching crinet. The combination of the shaffron's slender, pointed shape and its radiating ridges, together with the Italian-style armorer's ... more

Armor for Man and Horse Presumably Made for Baron Pankraz von Freyberg (1508–1565)

Armor for Man and Horse Presumably Made for Baron Pankraz von Freyberg...

Wolfgang Grosschedel was the most famous Landshut armorer of his generation. Included among his patrons were the Holy Roman Emperor and Philip II of Spain. These armors for man and horse constitute superb examp... more

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

This is a rare example of a late Gothic shaffron preserved with its matching crinet also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (acc. no. 14.25.1662). The combination of the shaffron's slender, pointed shape a... more

Armet

Armet

Milan; said to have been found in Norfolk