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Adam D. Kent-Isaac




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Oct, 2009 10:41 pm    Post subject: Is this armour real?         Reply with quote

Two paintings by Michiel Jansz can Mierevelt depict Prince Frederik Hendrik, Stathouder of Orange, and Ambrosio Spinola, general of Philip II. The armour they wear is disturbingly similar. The decorations on it are ridiculously intricate and they both depict the exact same things: Roman or Greek figures, drums, harps, trumpets, arrows, swords, and various other things. The distribution of the decorations is different but the overall pattern is way too similar to be a coincidence. It seems clear that one is based on the other (in this case, the portrait of Spinola was painted first.) Even the decorations on the table on the far right hand side are the same, although it's darker and less obvious in Spinola's portrait. It seems like an early form of "cut and paste", or more properly, duplication.

Given that the house of Orange and the Spanish were mortal enemies, it seems rather bizarre that two leaders from opposite sides would be shown wearing virtually the same armour. I mean, really, a human figure in the middle of a circle right on the exact same spots on both paintings? Obviously Spinola's tassets are much shorter, and his pauldrons more rounded, but otherwise... And I also have to question whether the harness actually existed, or whether it was the result of the painter's overactive imagination.



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Nathan M Wuorio




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PostPosted: Thu 15 Oct, 2009 11:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's interesting. Is it possible that someone from a rival house saw the painting and copied the armour? Adding to the tassets? I also wonder if it's real. I was in Scotland not too long ago and while on a tour of one of the castles near Edinburgh, I heard a guide mention that several of the portraits featured were almost ready made, just having the head of the person who posed added to the painting. I found it very odd that someone would want a painting where the portrait is almost complete, except for the head. Perhaps this is something similar?
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Werner Stiegler





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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 12:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, there's two possible explanations:

First, assumed that armour they're wearing did really exist, such decorations were taken out of pattern books, which had a wide circulation. It stands to reason that such decoration would have standard elements which are in use all over europe.

Second the painter re-used all the premilary sketches he had doned for the first painting. It would stand to reason that both of them would like to be represented in the style of the day - as heros with the insignia of antiquity and in comparable quality. It's not much different from all these rappers running around with golden chains and rings. Most of them besides a special few, which usually carry the insignia of the Rapper, don't mean anything.

It's the same here, really.

The armour says "I belong to a heroic poeple who trace their lineage back to antiquity", the medal says "I belong to the knightly order X of house Y", the clothing indicates their religion and the face reflects the person.
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W. Schütz
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If these people where not great foes i would think about the possibility of it being the same armour, as i know atleast in Sweden noblemen sometimes borrowed armour for portraits to enhance their "martial prestige". For instance in the mid 1600s Baron Sten Bielke is painted wearing parts of Sir Henry Lee´s Greenwich armour.
The Keeper of the Royal Armoury was even involved in a scandal accused of renting out armours to paying nobles..;)

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Gabriele A. Pini




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 1:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've found this photo on the spanish wikipedia and I think it's interesting. It's the paintings of Spinola by Rubens, with and older subject and a very different armour (I'm not familiar with 16th-17th century: this is a realistic armour model?) but with very similar decorations. There are differences, especially in the details, but the general feel is the same, as the colors.
Peraps the armours respect a general canon of the mode, or the personal opinion of Spinola, and all the differences are due to the diversity of the message: the Rubens (1630) is more like saying: "I'm and old war dog, very respected, injuried on the war front, a gentleman but always a knight, I've deposted my war armour but I can take it".
The one in the older painting (1609) is more a action man, he carried a command baton, not a walking stick, and ready to go battle.

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Adam D. Kent-Isaac




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 4:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By that time, most armour for nobles - even for portraiture - was of the cuirassier's style - long and wide tassets, and (usually) sparsely decorated. What Spinola is wearing in that portrait is a little bit "retro" - the half-armour look, lavishly decorated, was the kind of thing popular in portraits with Philip II and people from around that time period. By the time Spinola was an old man, it would have been rare to see that kind of armour in a portrait, but Spinola was a very proud general and it's likely that he wanted to evoke the glories of the past.

The expression on his face is just amazing. Determined, proud, stubborn, yet dignified, all at the same time. Painters back then were able to capture things in peoples' faces that few photographers even nowadays can accomplish. I really love this one of Christian von Braunschweig. "I just lost my left arm...and I don't give a damn!"


(Yes, he is wearing a Greenwich armour - more info about it in this thread.

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 5:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As in the thread about the Greenwich armour above constructional details begin to give away that these are far more likely different armours. While it is possible that the tassets were rebuilt ( made into currasiers tasssets ) its not the most likely choice, but that aside, the maine plate of the pauldrons are very different , those of Hendrik being of a style more commonly seen on 17th century currasiers harness with the squared form to them, also the arms at the elbows are very different in that Spinola's armour has a single lame above and below while Hendrik's has a single lame below and three lames above the elbow. Additionally there is depicted on the wrapper plate around the inside of the elbows that there is further etched, gold leafed design work in the middle of the plate rather than just around the boarders of Spinola's arm harness while Hendrik's lack this extra decoration. The shape of the gorget lames of both close helmets are different, the Spinola helmets being round while Hendrik's are more shaped like a spade blade comming to something of a point in front. An additional differnece in the etching between the two is that the figures in etched ovals of the spinola armour are all classical figure, clad/clothed, while on the Hendrik armour the figures are all clasicall but naked. I do not believe these to be the same armour, simply armours of a similar style popular in the later 16th century.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 7:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Allan Senefelder wrote:
As in the thread about the Greenwich armour above constructional details begin to give away that these are far more likely different armours. While it is possible that the tassets were rebuilt ( made into currasiers tasssets ) its not the most likely choice, but that aside, the maine plate of the pauldrons are very different , those of Hendrik being of a style more commonly seen on 17th century currasiers harness with the squared form to them, also the arms at the elbows are very different in that Spinola's armour has a single lame above and below while Hendrik's has a single lame below and three lames above the elbow. Additionally there is depicted on the wrapper plate around the inside of the elbows that there is further etched, gold leafed design work in the middle of the plate rather than just around the boarders of Spinola's arm harness while Hendrik's lack this extra decoration. The shape of the gorget lames of both close helmets are different, the Spinola helmets being round while Hendrik's are more shaped like a spade blade comming to something of a point in front. An additional differnece in the etching between the two is that the figures in etched ovals of the spinola armour are all classical figure, clad/clothed, while on the Hendrik armour the figures are all clasicall but naked. I do not believe these to be the same armour, simply armours of a similar style popular in the later 16th century.


I think that what happens is that to the " unprofessional eye " the similarities in general style is what first catches the eye and
they sort of look the same at a glance.

The more one studies anything the more the differences that may seem subtle become very distinct differences that really stand out to the point that one wonders how they could , when they were new to the subject, think that they where the same or even close. Wink

Adam D. Kent-Isaac
Quote:
Given that the house of Orange and the Spanish were mortal enemies, it seems rather bizarre that two leaders from opposite sides would be shown wearing virtually the same armour.


Well, uniforms where not in common use at least as far as high end armour I think so having similar armour may just mean that both armours where " top of the line " and in fashion and the rich would compete in having the best of basically the same top design(s) ?

Enemies might also be " personal " enemies or just on different sides of a dispute but still have respect for each other ?

Anyway, most of the Nobles of the different countries or factions where related by blood and today's enemy might be tomorrow's friend or brother in law. Wink Laughing Out Loud

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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some of it may be artistic convention. In the 2003 Peter Finer catalogue, there is a portrait of the future Charles I of England, Scotland, Ireland, and "France". The cataloguer notes that there are two version of this portrait painted. One shows an armour with more heavily Scottish decoration: thistles, etc. The version pictured in the catalogue shows different decoration.

While it's possible he owned two sumptuously decorated harnesses in his teens, it's more likely that the artist (perhaps Paul von Somer) tweaked each image to fit its target.

So how does that relate to this thread? Happy Since it's the future Charles I owned two harnesses, we can chalk up the harness and decoration at least partly to artistic convention. In this case, it's possible the same artist(s) painted both of the paintings Adam showed or that the same shop was used or both painters used the same conventions.

Given the complexities of painting such decoration of the armour and the length of sitting the noble would have to endure, I wouldn't be surprised if the harnesses were painted at a different time than the face (and perhaps by a different hand).

It was common in earlier times for works of art to be sketched out by the Master or head of the shop and other things filled in by apprentices. Maybe they had a really good harness painter and everyone used the same guy. Happy

Just speculation on my part...

Happy

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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 8:49 am    Post subject: pre-photography         Reply with quote

I think that artists patroned by the aristocracy would not be allowed the freedoms we presume for modern artists. The armor would have been ordered custom made for the aristocrat, and the armorer would need to be carefull about the symbols employed... one would not wish to accidentaly offend the fellow who would eventually pay the bill.
The patterns employed would need to be approved, as anything else in an epoch where ''off the shelf'' just wouldn't do.
As for the painter, his art was then to reproduce things as closely as possible, not to take liberties with the subject as future generations would. If he couldn't replicate what was before his eyes, he wasn't worth hiring. When you stand before the NIghtwatch in the Reichsmuseum in Amsterdam, you feel their presence. There is nothing romantic, nor impressionistic, and certainly nothing surreal about them. People who knew the individuals would recognize them and the clothes they were wearing.
When photography arrives, Art changes, replicating what is before the Artist's eyes can be done though a lens, by someone who can't draw a straight line. Children can use Kodaks, and do...but at the time of those paintings, getting it real was very important, and I would think that given the quality of the armor depicted, the owner would be pissed off if the artist didn't get it right. Can you imagine a portrait of Ben Rothlisberger in a Miami Dolphin's jersey....

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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 8:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another reason these do not appear to be the same armour, the pauldrons of the Spinola armour are riveted around the boarded to accept a leather for presumably picadills, while the Hendrik pauldrons have no such rivets. Additionally the Spinola armour has roped boarders throughout while the Hedrik armour does not. The pauldrons on the Spinola armour plainly show a series or single brass rivets, one on each lame of the upper articulation assembely, set in between the middle and front bands of etched and gilded decoration to carry the articulating leathers, the Hendrik armour lacks these rivets. The visor on the Spinola helmet is secured by a sneck hook riveted to the lower portion of the helmet engaged in a brass eye block riveted into the lower portion of the visor which is visible in the painting. As such it lacks the hole below the grouping of 10 breath holes it has, that is below the 9 breath holes in the lower portion of the visor of the Hedrick helmet, the Hendrik helmet presumably being locked down by a sprung pin rather than a sneck hook and block.
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Adam D. Kent-Isaac




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Quote:
Some of it may be artistic convention. In the 2003 Peter Finer catalogue, there is a portrait of the future Charles I of England, Scotland, Ireland, and "France". The cataloguer notes that there are two version of this portrait painted. One shows an armour with more heavily Scottish decoration: thistles, etc. The version pictured in the catalogue shows different decoration.

While it's possible he owned two sumptuously decorated harnesses in his teens, it's more likely that the artist (perhaps Paul von Somer) tweaked each image to fit its target.

So how does that relate to this thread? Happy Since it's the future Charles I owned two harnesses, we can chalk up the harness and decoration at least partly to artistic convention. In this case, it's possible the same artist(s) painted both of the paintings Adam showed or that the same shop was used or both painters used the same conventions.

Given the complexities of painting such decoration of the armour and the length of sitting the noble would have to endure, I wouldn't be surprised if the harnesses were painted at a different time than the face (and perhaps by a different hand).


I'm going to go with this as the most plausible explanation. The form of the armour is different - and possibly a depiction by the harnesses actually worn by Spinola and Hendrik - but the decoration, I think, was probably the creation of the artist and not part of the actual armour.

As to the Classical figures being naked on Hendrik's armour and clothed on Spinola's, that might be attributable to the religious conservatism of the Catholics versus that of the Dutch, although that is pure conjecture. I do know that there have definitely been instances of naked Classical statues being "clothed" by over-zealous popes.

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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 6:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
As to the Classical figures being naked on Hendrik's armour and clothed on Spinola's, that might be attributable to the religious conservatism of the Catholics versus that of the Dutch, although that is pure conjecture.


I'd say that's purely the opposite of being the likely reasoning, in this particular aspect. The Catholics still commissioned huge numbers of art through the 16th and 17th century in their "artistic crusade" against the protestants that would involve classical figures, often in the nude. It was the Protestants and their great disgust with religious idols and the presentation of Christ in the flesh, as well as their push away from saints, martyrs, etc... that created the religious conservatism of the era, when it came to religious art. The Dutch were rather in between this, as they were obviously very liberal in their culture and I want to say that the fluctuation in their affections towards religion and art would probably allow a variety of acceptable motifs present in their personal art collections (this would, of course, run down the line to things such as the etching in their armour). The nation was also split between Catholic and Protestant factions, of course, so the influence of art in this small nation of great artistic revolutionaries was very complex.

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Adam D. Kent-Isaac




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PostPosted: Fri 16 Oct, 2009 8:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fascinating stuff...this kind of thing is why I was a history major.
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Oct, 2009 6:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm going to go with this as the most plausible explanation. The form of the armour is different - and possibly a depiction by the harnesses actually worn by Spinola and Hendrik - but the decoration, I think, was probably the creation of the artist and not part of the actual armour.


I'm not sure i'm following you, have you concluded that your initial assumption that either the armour is fake or these two wore the same harness for thier portraits is correct ( if this is the case, while I cannot attest to thier actual existance although it is highly unlikely that these men simply possed in street clothes and the armours were added after, thats not how portraiture was don e then or now, I would have to continue to disagree, they are constructionally very different armours) or that the etchings are artistic license? Etching on armour of this quality was often of a personal character to the owner, as has been said elsewhere in this thread


Quote:
As for the painter, his art was then to reproduce things as closely as possible, not to take liberties with the subject as future generations would. If he couldn't replicate what was before his eyes, he wasn't worth hiring. When you stand before the NIghtwatch in the Reichsmuseum in Amsterdam, you feel their presence. There is nothing romantic, nor impressionistic, and certainly nothing surreal about them. People who knew the individuals would recognize them and the clothes they were wearing.


And I would agree with this statement.
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Adam D. Kent-Isaac




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Oct, 2009 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, I was not quite clear enough in what I meant. (When I questioned whether the armour "actually existed" what I meant was whether or not the decoration was actually on the armour or whether it was the invention of the artist.)

I am sure that both Spinola and Hendrik posed in armour for their portraits, or at the very least, had their armour in the studio for the artist to study if they did not feel like standing there for a long time in harness.

I am sure that the armours worn by these two men, for their portraits, are different harnesses entirely; as others have said, their construction is quite dissimilar in many ways (tassets, pauldrons, etc; Spinola's helmet also seems to be different.)

The only thing I'm uncertain about is the decorations - whether they were added by the artist, or whether they were actually physically on the armour. It's uncanny how similar they are. I've seen a lot of armours that had Classical motifs on them, to be sure; but I haven't seen two that were so similar in the positioning of the embellishment (the number of gilt bands, the position of the encircled figures, the little images of drums, quivers, swords, etc.)

But given this statement:

Quote:
As for the painter, his art was then to reproduce things as closely as possible, not to take liberties with the subject as future generations would. If he couldn't replicate what was before his eyes, he wasn't worth hiring. When you stand before the NIghtwatch in the Reichsmuseum in Amsterdam, you feel their presence. There is nothing romantic, nor impressionistic, and certainly nothing surreal about them. People who knew the individuals would recognize them and the clothes they were wearing.


and assuming that Mierevelt, the artist, did indeed faithfully recreate exactly what was there in front of him when he painted this, then maybe these two commanders just happened to have owned armours from the same workshop that were decorated in the same way? Perhaps Hendrik crossed paths with Spinola at some point, in a non-combat situation, and decided that he liked the armour and wanted a suit like that for himself? Orange and Spain were mortal enemies but I think Spinola was respected even by his foes.

Or maybe I'm just overthinking this and there is some much simpler explanation? Confused

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Chris Gilman




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Oct, 2009 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This may have been brought up and I missed it, but I think a more likely possibility is they are 2 similar armours. Remember, armour like cars today are made by only a few companies (workshops) and if you are wealthy, then you most likely shop at only a couple of those. As an example, the Buckhurst armour in the Wallace collection is almost identical to the Scudermore armour in the Met, as well as a breastplate for presumably a third armour in Philly, all with the same decoration but made for different patrons.
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Adam D. Kent-Isaac




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PostPosted: Sat 17 Oct, 2009 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Does anyone know names of any of the master armourers of the 17th century who might have supplied very important people like Spinola, Hendrik, Maurice (who is also shown in a painting by Mierevelt wearing a hellishly elaborate, fully-gilded cuirassier's harness embossed with tiny little feather designs)? And do any of these noble Dutch armours survive?
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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Oct, 2009 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam D. Kent-Isaac wrote:
As to the Classical figures being naked on Hendrik's armour and clothed on Spinola's, that might be attributable to the religious conservatism of the Catholics versus that of the Dutch, although that is pure conjecture. I do know that there have definitely been instances of naked Classical statues being "clothed" by over-zealous popes.


My suggestion is that the almost naked figures on Frederik Hendrik's armour are Batavian warriors.

In the 17th C., the newly independent (de facto at least) Dutch nation was becoming very interested in it's ancient history. The Batavians and especially their revolt against the Romans was an inspiration to the Dutch. Consequently, Batavian imagery was very common in the 17th C.

For example, compare the figures on the armour to this painting by Ferdinand Bol, ca. 1660-70, depicting negotiations between Batavian and Roman leaders.
http://www.rijksmuseum.nl/images/aria/sk/z/sk-a-4853.z

Germanic "barbarians" in general, are also common in Dutch heraldry and decorations:
http://www.lemmer.net/wlog/media/blogs/inwoners/Wildeman.jpg
http://www.ngw.nl/b/images/beilen.jpg
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