Allen Antiques

This page illustrates a set of different breastplate shapes that existed during the 16th c. All of the examples were taken from the Allen collection.

The first three illustrate a form that was used in the late fifteenth century and into the second decade of the sixteenth. It is often associated with Flemish and Spanish usage, but a similar form occurs in Henry VIII's silvered and engraved armor. It is characterized by a central keel on an overall rounded form.

The first illustrates a late 15th c. neck line which rises high over the shoulders and much larger angular rolls. The second would be more typical of the early 16th c. and the third in between with its high shoulders, but also high center of the neck.

The rolls on both of these breastplates are rolled "out." This is typical of 15th and very early 16th c. construction.

Breast plate shape Breast plate shape Breast plate shape
Italian or Flemish, left 1490-1500 (inv #A-66) middle 1500-1510 (inv. #A-239), right 1500 (inv. #A-321)

In the early sixteenth century breastplates changed in form along with the form of civilian costume. This illustrates the more full and rounded form typical of early 16th c. clothing. In this case the surface is plain.

By this time the roll construction has switched to the method used throughout the rest of the 16th c. The rolls are flaired out and then rolled back toward the inside.

Breast plate shape
1510-1520 inv. #A-281

These show two different shapes from the early 16th c. which have fluted decoration. This can stiffen the piece, but it also mimics civilian fashion. The first illustrates the form seen on most armours displayed, the right illustrates a different shape with a concave sweep in the lower section and a higher arc.

The right and the one above also illustrate a construction method that seems to have been used on cheap armour in the late 15th and early 16th c. where the gussets are formed with a flair with the edge folded back instead of a full roll.

Breast plate shape Breast plate shape
Left German 1505-1515 (inv. #A-170) right Italian 1510-1520 (inv. #A-216)

Slightly later there is a relatively rare style that likely develops from the second one above. The inward sweep in the lower section is more pronounced, the center is creased and the rolls have changed from angular to roped. Roped rolls are typical for the rest of the century.

Breast plate shape
Italian or Flemish 1520 (inv. #A-225)

During the middle of the century a somewhat peculiar fashion became popular. It takes several forms, but the basic idea is that there is a point in the center of the breast. The one on the left was designed for use without tassets, the one on the right would have carried tassets covering the thigh.

Breast plate shape Breast plate shape
Left 1560 (inv. #A-291) right 1550-1580 (inv. #A-279)

This shows a variation of this central point that seems to have been popular of pieces made in Augsburg. The point is in the same general location, but the point is much rounder and it often sweeps out more aggressively.

Breast plate shape
Innsbruck 1550-1560 (inv. #A-241)

Another form that exists in the middle of the century is similar, but the point drops lower. This seems to be the precursor to the later peascod form. This particular example includes a single fauld lame with turn pins that would allow for a longer fauld to be attached. It also has a hole at the top center that would have held a peg to secure a buff.

Breast plate shape
1550-1560 (inv. #A-158)

There is another form that is externally similar, but it fits the body very differently. This was used for a short period in the late 40's and through the 50's. The waist is lower on this style and so the shape has to be much straighter.

Breast plate shape
1550-1560 (inv. #A-1-c)

By the end of the end of the century civilian fashion had moved to the "peascod" form. Breastplates followed this same form.

Breast plate shape
1580-90 (inv. #A-306)

If you have any questions, please send them to Wade Allen

This site last updated Sat June 12 18:57:05 EDT 2020