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 with leather straps covering the upper arms, a detail borrowed from ancient armor. He stands on a tiny hillock; his fingertips balance the top of the shield, whose base rests on the ground. Fine-grained Jurassic limestone, quarried near Solnhofen, north of Augsburg, has been cut and polished to render the lad’s sleek limbs and finely wrought armor, but selected elements—eyes and lips, collar, skirt, and base—have been accented with color; the shield is entirely painted. Museum curator Wolfram Koeppe has convincingly traced the origins of this sculpture, while confirming the attribution to Hans Daucher, made when it appeared on the market in 1972 and again in 1997– 98. Hans Daucher is documented as having designed— and with his father, Adolf Daucher, helped to execute— the portal of the ducal chapel in Meissen Cathedral. Letters between George the Bearded, last Catholic ruler of Albertine Saxony (1471–1539), and Adolf Daucher indicate that Duke George commissioned an entrance portal for his chapel about 1518–19. The elements of the structure were delivered from Augsburg to Meissen in 1521 and installed about 1524. Five meters high, the portal consists of an arched limestone doorway, flanked by serpentine columns, whose double cornice supports a relief of the Lamentation framed by smaller columns and crowned by a low, shell-shaped semicircle. During renovations undertaken between 1856 and 1865, the portal was shifted to the inside wall of the chapel, but it was restored to its original position outside the entrance in 1977. The Meissen antiquarian Richard Steche wrote in 1885 that two putti holding armorial shields of Duke George and his spouse once crowned the columns of this portal, adding that they resemble those topping the high altar in the Sankt Annenkirche, Annaberg-Bucholz, completed by the Daucher atelier in 1522. These two Meissen Shield Bearers must have been removed by 1919, as there is no mention of them in a scholarly record of old buildings and monuments in Saxony published that year. There is little doubt that the Museum’s sculpture is one of the two; the location of the other is unknown.Hans Daucher was one of a talented group of Augsburg sculptors that included his teacher Gregor Erhart. Several putti by Daucher share characteristics of the Museum’s example. In addition to the two on the high altar of the Sankt Annenkirche (1518–22) and a Young Hercules on the balustrade of the Fugger Chapel in the same church (ca. 1530), there is a Sleeping Putto attributed to Daucher in the Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Maximiliansmuseum, Augsburg (ca. 1520–30). All of them bear similar facial features and, save the Sleeping Putto, wear comparable armor. The related examples are winged, but the Museum’s has filled-in holes in the back that likely once supported wings of lead or wood. Such figures have Italian prototypes, as Koeppe noted, for example, those carved by Desiderio da Settignano for the monument of Carlo Marsuppini, in the church of Santa Croce, Florence (after 1453). When placed before the ducal chapel, the Shield Bearers acted as pages, presenting the lord’s coat of arms and standing like sentinels before a sacred precinct. As Koeppe has pointed out, in their original location the Shield Bearers would have marked the portal’s peak, softening its hard and somewhat ungainly form; the bearings on their shields echoed the ducal arms seen below in the Lamentation relief and over the door, leaving no doubt about the identity of those commemorated within the chapel.[Ian Wardropper. European Sculpture, 1400–1900, In the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, no. 17, pp. 60–61.]Footnotes:  Wolfram Koeppe. "An Early Meissen Discovery: A Shield Bearer Designed by Hans Daucher for the Ducal Chapel in the Cathedral of Meissen." Metropolitan Museum Journal 37 (2002), pp. 41–62. Felician Gess. Akten und Briefe zur Kirchenpolitik Herzog Georgs von Sachsen. Vol. 1. Leigzig, 1905, p. 231. Hans-Joachim Krause. "Die Grabkapelle Herzog Georgs von Sachsen und seiner Gemahlin am Dom zu Meissen." In Das Hoschstift Meissen: Aufsätze zur sächsischen Kirchengeschichte, edited by Franz Lau, pp. 375–402. Berlin, 1973, p. 387. Heinrich Magirius. "Die denkmalpflegerische Wiederherstellung des Westportals und der Fürstenkapelle, 1974-1996." In Elisabeth Hütter, Günter Kavacs, Michael Kirsten, and Heinrich Magirius, Das Portal an der Westturmfront und die Fürstenkapelle, pp. 415–22. Forschungen und Schriften zur Denkmalpflege, vol. 2, pt. 1. Forschungen zur Bau- and Kunstgeschichte des Meissner Domes 1. Halle, 1999, p. 415. R. Steche. Beschreibende Darstellung der älteren Bau- und Kunstdenkmäler des Königreichs Sachsen. Vol. 4, Amtshauptmannschaft Annaberg. Dresden, 1885, p. 33. Cornelius Gurlitt. Beschreibende Darstellung der älteren Bau- und Kunstdenkmäler in Sachsen. Vol. 40, Meissen (Burgberg). Dresden, 1919, pp. 209 – 11. See Koeppe 2002, figs. 6, 31, 32. Ibid., p. 58, fig. 28.
Hans Daucher (German, ca. 1485–1538)
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.