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Adam D. Kent-Isaac

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PostPosted: Tue 22 Sep, 2009 1:50 pm    Post subject: The armour of Christopher Columbus?         Reply with quote

Several websites display an image of what is supposedly the armour of Christopher Columbus, located at the Royal Palace in Madrid. Christopher Columbus died in 1506. This image shows what looks like a heavily-decorated cuirassier's armour from about 100 years later. Something is not right here. What is this all about? Has anyone been to the Royal Palace in Madrid and seen this suit? Was it maybe posthumously made to decorate his tomb, or something, many years later?

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Daniel Sullivan

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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 10:29 am    Post subject: The Armour of Christopher Columbus         Reply with quote


You are correct about dating the armour in your post. It is Cuirass Armour of the "Savoy" type or northern Italian and would date from maybe 1600-30. The earliest reference that I have see to the suit in your post is 1886, a period not known for historical accuracy when it came arms and armour. We still see illustraitons of the early conquistadors such as De Soto. Cortes, Pizzaro. etc. wearing late 16th century comb morions and Pisan armour and carrying rapiers from the mid 17th century.

I have a couple of catalogs from the Royal Armoury in Madrid, but couldn't find the suit in question. Although there is one 3/4 suit that resembles it, there are far many differences for it to be the same one (ref. Armeria del Palacio Real De Madrid published 1987, page 137). It is tagged as the parade harness of the Duke of Escalona. Believe this is the same one used to illustrate the cover of the 1970 reprint of Ashdown's Arms and Armour (1909). There is also a very fine example of this type in the Wallace Collection ( Fifth edition, Vol. 1, A63, plate 46).

Maybe a bit late for our friend Christopher, but a pretty good reference is Arms and Armor in Colonial America 1526-1783
(Harold L. Peterson, 1956). It gives one a pretty fair idea about what was happening on our side of the pond in that era.

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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 11:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Attributing an item to a famous person instantly makes more people want to see it. In a museum in China I remember a WWI era bayonet crudely inscribed Chris Columbos, the card next to it read "The personol swerd of Cristopher Columbo, who diccoverd the Americas". Even in museums the spelling was a bit off, but I think you get the point. In Turkey they have the late 17th/ early 18th century sword of Mohammad, etc., etc. There are hundreds of these.
My assumption would be that this armour had nothing to do with Christopher Columbus and was simply attributed to him to make it more special/valuable.

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Hisham Gaballa

Joined: 27 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Sep, 2009 2:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A famous example of misattributing armour is the "Line of Kings" from the Tower of London. In the 17th-18th century the staff of the tower of London randomly attributed various armours to Historical figures as a way of attracting visitors. For example a late 16th century German armour was attributed to John of Gaunt.
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