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Composite armour

This steel armour for field use is typical of German pieces made after 1500 which, mirroring fashions in civilian dress, moved away from the more slender ‘Gothic’ forms towards a bulky outline that emphasized bodily mass. Its medially ridged, deep-bellied breastplate is a precursor to the ‘goose-belly’ or ‘peascod’ shape of later sixteenth-century breastplates and waistcoats. The armoured codpiece also reflects contemporary fashions: its cuplike form dates it quite specifically to c.1530–60, as later examples are more upwardly pointing and, by 1570, they had gone out of fashion. The restrained surface decoration, consisting of ‘black from the hammer’ surfaces with recessed bands and borders and roped edges, is also typical, and contrasts with the ‘fluted’ flaring or parallel ridges which had been popular from c.1515–40. Although the armour appears to be a complete ‘suit’, it is in fact a composite, made up of elements taken from several different but roughly contemporary and stylistically similar examples. The practice of ‘associating’ pieces often involved modifying the form or colour of particular parts to make them fit together better, physically and/or visually. This sort of ‘restoration’, typically demanded by nineteenth and early twentieth-century collectors who wanted complete ‘knights’ for display in serried ranks, is no longer considered an acceptable curatorial practice.

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