Parts of a North German Armour for the Field c. 1540
Germany had been one of the greatest European centres for the production of armour since the early Middle Ages. The four greatest centres for armour making in the German Lands were all in the south: Augsburg, Nuremberg, Landshut and Innsbruck. Today we understand well and can distinguish with some confidence the works of each of these famous armour cities.
Yet the south was not the only part of Germany famous for its armour. A number of key cities in northern Germany, Brunswick and Cologne foremost among them, were also home to communities of armourers whose work could be almost as good as their ‘southern cousins’. To date, comparatively little attention has been paid to the armour-making industry in North Germany, but enough is known to distinguish some essential north German features. The Wallace Collection includes several fine North German pieces, which illustrate some of the basic stylistic characteristics of that school.
This group of armour parts, from a large three-quarter armour made for infantry and light cavalry use, shows clear North German features. Its decoration includes distinctive double, narrow recessed borders, filled with a tight, undulating line pattern interspersed with tiny etched dots. The wide strapwork panels are filled with mythical beasts and figures, architectural forms and foliage, with the background filled with etched dots. These dots are strikingly different from the fine stippling that almost always fills the recessed fields on South German work. The most striking aspect of the decoration is however to be found in the areas between the double recessed borders. This wider border band has been made to stand out very prominently in contrast to the recessed bands above and below it through the use of raised bosses or knobs arranged in line around the primary edges of the plates. This motif gives the whole armour a very strong, massive appearance, serving to emphasise its already substantial physical size.
Monday 8 and Tuesday 23 May at 1pm with Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour, in the European Armoury I.
Norman, A.V.B., Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour Supplement, London 1986, pp. 11-12
Mann, Sir James, Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour, London 1962, pp. 37-38, pls. 17, 50