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Breastplate German Gothic Breastplate Breastplate
This is a "relic" item. Understanding what it can tell us really requires an understanding of armor. It has lost its fauld, there is major pitting, buckles are lost, and the pieces have been secured after its initial working life. This piece requires some knowledge from other pieces to understand what we are seeing. Other documented ones like this (see the Rhodes book) show that the central rivet was a bolt, the other 3 rivets are later, there is no provision for internal leathers and the fauld would have been secured by rivets, not leathers. This was displayed with a fauld, and was likely at one point part of a harness. It has since been stripped back to what we see here. The two pieces are original, and can be displayed together, but they weren't used together. The parts still have a good deal to teach us, and it can display well enough to have been in special exhibits. Studying this piece really requires taking the two parts apart and inspecting them individually. The upper shows us the (often not understood) geometry that is common in many of these breastplates which involves a relatively straight bottom edge, threaded plate and no leathers. This is an example of what happened in the 19th and early 20th century. In this case it was likely done by Bashford Dean. This was a piece that he owned, and it went to the Higgins where it was displayed as-is. Due to the issues with it, the WAM deaccessioned it. We will look at this in depth to see what is good, what is in between and what is bad with this piece.

Breastplate late 15th c.

Built in the characteristic 15th c. style of 2 plates where the upper plate covers much of the chest and is overlapped by a lower plate that rises up in the center. The upper plate has simple, tapered, outward-turned rolls at the neck and arms. The roll at the neck is just slightly curved. There are two rivets for attachment of buckles at the shoulders, both of these are replaced, one has been moved somewhat to account for the loss of the end of the shoulder extension. There is another rivet right at the edge of the loss that matches the location of the rivet on the other shoulder. The lower plate has a flare at the bottom for the suspension of a fauld. There are 2 holes for the rivets to secure the fauld lames, a rivet remains in one hole. The 2 plates are presently secured by 4 rivets, the largest, central one of these would have originally been a bolt, the others are later additions. The lower plate rises to a wide peak at the center and it cut with 2 small cusps at the side. The edges of the central point are beveled over most of the edge. The bevel terminates before the cusps. This breastplate is of relatively heavy construction. The metal thickness by visual inspection in the center appears to be app. 3 mm tapering to app. 1 mm at the sides. These are estimates as it is hard to actually measure the thickness in its current configuration. A few actual measurements with a deep micrometer indicates that after the losses to rust the central upper breastplate varies between .115 and .150 in. in the center. The edge under the arm thins noticeably - the very edge is generally .040-.050 with one thin spot down to .030. Within 2 in. from the edge it thickens to .090 and then on up to the central thickness. The lower plate is more even in thickness and noticeably thinner - generally app. .050 in. It is basically a really large waist lame. There is some loss to one shoulder and at the center of the lower flare.

A very similar breastplate is illustrated as item 5.8 (page 89) in The Medieval Armour from Rhodes by Karcheski and Richardson. This item is in the collection of the Chateau de Grandson Switzerland. This breastplate is described as German or Italian end of the 15th/early 16th century. They also identify it as of the type called Fussknechtbrust - for use by armoured infantry. This one may be intended for mounted or higher-end use since the metal thickness varies from the center to the sides. Generally these simple 2 piece breastplates are attributed to late 15th c.

Measurements: (all taken straight on the inside) - width at the narrowest spot between the armholes - 9 1/2 in., width at the bottom of the armholes 14 3/8 in., width at the waist 12 1/4 in., height from waist to the top of the center of the neck 13 7/8 in., overall height 15 1/4 in.

Weight 6 pounds 10.6 ounces (3,025 g). [inv. num. A-193]

German Gothic Breastplate circa 1480-1490

Composed. Formed of two pieces joined by a bolt. The main plate with a low medial ridge, plain angular, outward turned rolls at the neck and arm holes. The roll at the neck forming a vertical front edge then rounded over the top. The roll tapers nicely at the ends. The arm rolls of similar, but not as nicely executed form. The arm holes each with three one sided step flutes parallel to the rolls. Plackart rising to a central squared off point pierced with four hearts, the center with a vertical keel. The upper edges of the plackart with two parallel flutes. The outer of these is a step, the next seems symmetric. Bottom edge of the plackart flared to carry a fauld. The parts have been together for all of its modern history, but they are associated. The plackart and upper are secured to each other by a central bolt which threads directly into one of 4 holes pierced in the upper. The bolt is likely from the same period and the threads fit the threads in the upper. The top hole is cleanly cut, the bottom three are significantly mushroomed inward around the edges. As currently displayed, it sits a little tall, and the waist line will appear to be straighter than it would have been originally. Plates show signs of delamination and wear through cleaning. There are two small dents in the upper breast. These look like they may have been caused by impact from a square pointed weapon.

Measurements: Total weight 4 pounds 12.4 ounces (2.169 kg) - upper breastplate 3 pounds 8.2 ounces (1595 g), plackart 1 pound 4.4 ounces (580 g). 9 7/8 inches wide at the top at the outside of the arm rolls, tapering out to about 10 1/2 inches where the armholes sweep out under the arms, 13 3/4 inches wide under the arms, 11 inches wide at the waist. Upper breastplate 12 7/8 inches tall at the center (measured straight on the inside). Neck roll 0.37 inch tall and 0.50 inch wide at the center. The roll tapers to 0.18 inch wide and 0.12 inch tall at the end. The thickness of the upper breastplate is extremely variable, between .019 and .097 inch. I expect that some of the thickness has been lost due to cleaning. If there is any pattern at all to the thickness, it would appear that the upper thins some under the arms and in areas that might have been covered by a larger original plackart. Plackart .038-.068 inch thick, pretty randomly distributed. As a guess the lack of intentional thickness management appears to confirm that these parts were originally part of lower quality armours.

Provenance - H. Wendel, Munich 1926, Stephen V. Granscay by 1933, Howard M. Curtis sold Christie's London 31 Oct. 1984 lot 273, a private French collection.

Exhibited - Brooklyn Museum 1933 no. 16, Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences 1935, Allentown Art Museum 1964 no. 64 (illustrated in the catalogue on page 41). [inv. num. A-330]

Breastplate circa 1490

German. Composed. Upper plate with outward turned triangular rolls at the neck and arms. The form of the upper breastplate and specifically its rolls with sweeping inner curves compares very well to the Gothic armours in Vienna made by Lorenz Helmschmied. Plackart formed of one main plate and two smaller plates. Plackart associated. Plackart lames somewhat reworked to fit upper. Some modern internal patches in original plates. One end of the upper breastplate extended to match other side. Modern fauld of four lames. Upper plate fitted with a folding lance rest secured by two bolts from he inside. Lance rest described as modern in sale description. After removal and investigation the details of construction and wear indicate that there is a possibility that the lance rest is actually of the period, possibly even originally part of the same armour as the upper breastplate. It compares very closely to those which survive on the Vienna Gothic armours of the same period. There are also similarities to the lance rest on slightly later Mantova B-8. The bolts are also similar to one of those on the Mantova armour. Two modern buckles at the shoulders. Ex. JW Higgins armoury inv. no. 802. From Dr Bashford Dean, Riverdale, New York, purchased from his estate, 28th September 1929. Exhibited Rockefeller Center, New York, 1 - 30 June 1965 and Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 9 April - 16 September 1963

Measurements: Breastplate: 13 1/2 in tall from the base of the neck to center of waist, 11 in. wide at the shoulders, 7 1/2 in. wide at the top of the neck, 10 1/2 in. wide at the narrowest spot between the arms, 14 3/8 in. wide under the arms and 10 1/4 in. wide at the waist. Lance Rest. The hinge portion is composed of 3 parts. The central part is part of the base, the two outside elements are part of the hook. The outer two knuckles are 1/4 in. thick. The central knuckle is just over 5/16 in. thick. There isn't a clean spot where the hinge actually is a full circle. But if I measure from the top to the flat spot on the bottom, it is just over 7/8 in. tall. Top to bottom 4 1/8 in. from end of point to end of point. The base arches app 5/16 in. above the level of the 2 points at the center to allow it to fit to the curve of the breastplate. From the center of the base to the end of the hook 4 3/16 in. Width of the base from the end of a point to flat spot 1 3/4 in. Holes are app. 1 1/2 in. apart on center. Weight of the lance rest: 8.6 ounces (245g).

Breastplate thickness (measuring in the upper breastplate, the least adapated part) .085 in. to .12 in. generally .095-.11 in. It seems to be a little thicker under the lance rest. [inv. num. A-237]