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 in 1904, the armor was exhibited in the Arms and Armor Galleries until 1988. It was once again on display, in the Great Hall, to herald the Museum’s celebration of the Department of Arms and Armor’s centennial (1912–2012), a century in which the collection became one of the largest and most encyclopedic of its kind.The armor is a special type worn in Germany and Austria for the "joust of peace" (Gestech), fought by two contestants on horseback armed with blunt lances. The aim was to unseat the opponent or at least to break a lance against his armor. An extreme sport, the joust was a test of the rider’s skill, courage, and horsemanship. Safety was of greater concern than mobility, so the armor was thick, heavy, and rigid. The helmet was bolted firmly to the breast- and backplate. Inside, the wearer’s head was encased in a padded hood and strapped firmly in place against the shock and whiplash of being struck with a lance. The lance was supported by a hook (lance-rest) and a long counter-hook (queue) bolted to the right side of the breastplate. Leg armor was not necessary, as blows below the belt were forbidden.The horse wears a "blind" shaffron (head defense), with the eyes covered so as to prevent it from shying away from the encounter. Similarly, a collar of bells muffled the noise of the oncoming horse and roaring crowd. The horse is fitted with brocade and velvet trappings (modern) that include a straw-filled bolster hung across its chest that acted like a "bumper" to protect the horse and the rider’s legs in the event of a collision. This was necessary in a joust fought in an open field, which lacked a barrier (called the tilt) to keep the horses separated. The textile fittings for the man and horse are inspired by tournament illustrations of the sixteenth century.The man’s armor is assembled from pieces of approximately the same date but from different sources. The helmet, shield (here covered with plaques of horn), and tassets (upper-thigh defenses) are restorations. The masterfully forged helmet was made in Paris in 1891 by the armorer Daniel Tachaux. In 1909 Dr. Bashford Dean, the Metropolitan’s first curator of arms and armor, hired Tachaux to establish an armor conservation workshop. Still active today, the workshop is responsible for conserving, mounting, and installing the Department of Arms and Armor’s collection of 14,000 objects.
Helmet (04.3.291a) made by Daniel Tachaux (French, 1857–1928, active in France and America)
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.