Equestrian armour of Ottheinrich, Count Palatine of the Rhine Hans Ringler, Nuremberg dated 1532 and 1536
Otto Henry, or ‘Ottheinrich’ (1502-59) was a powerful German war-leader, patron of the arts and, later in his career, champion of the Protestant Reformation.
Ottheinrich had a number of fine armours. He wore them on his military campaigns, and they were also status symbols, showing him to be a Renaissance prince of great prestige. The colour of the armour reflected Ottheinrich’s coat-of-arms, emblazoned on the shaffron (horse’s face-defence), which are black, gold and silver. The main surfaces of the armour are painted black, making the etched and gilt bands and borders stand out in a bold and impressive way. Many armours were originally coloured, but most have today lost their original painted surfaces.
The armour as we see it today is a composite, made up of parts from several armours belonging to Ottheinrich. This is evident when one examines the decorative motifs contained within the gilded bands. The pauldrons (shoulder plates) and cuirass (breast- and backplates) share the same pattern, in which birds and infants figure prominently, and so they clearly belong to the same armour. The other parts have a different design, involving large scrolls of flowers and foliage. The breastplate is also etched with the figure of the Virgin Mary, which emphasises the fact that the work pre-dates Ottheinrich’s conversion to Protestantism, which rejected such imagery.
In 1800, during the Napoleonic Wars, Ottheinrich’s castle at Neuberg on the Danube was raided by French troops, and several of his armours were taken for Napoleon’s personal collection. Some pieces remained in Paris, while other parts were used to make up this armour, which was bought by a dealer and taken to England, where it found its way into the hands of the great armour scholar Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick. Most of the Meyrick collection was purchased by Sir Richard Wallace in 1871.
© Trustees of the Wallace Collection 2008.
Text by Tobias Capwell
Tobias Capwell with discuss this armour at 1pm on Monday the 12 and 26 January.
- Norman, A.V.B., Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour Supplement (London: The Wallace Collection, 1986), p. 138.
- Mann, Sir James, Wallace Collection Catalogues: European Arms and Armour (London: The Wallace Collection, 1962), pp. 302-3, pl. 122.