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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
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PostPosted: Fri 29 Apr, 2011 11:49 pm    Post subject: How common was "black from the hammer" armour?         Reply with quote

Hello,

In lots of War of the Roses era paintings the knights armour is very dark grey or black. Is this an example of the paint changing color over the years or was the artist depicting armour left black from the hammer?

And if the artists were trying to depict "black from the hammer" armour (and even if they weren't) would it have been as common as the paintings sometimes make it look? And since in these paintings all the knights are depicted in this way, would this mean that all ranks of society (or all that had armour) might have worn black from the hammer? Such as a lord or monarch, and not just the common men-at-arms?

Please forgive me if this has been covered somewhere else, I did a search but came up with nothing.

Here are some examples of what I'm talking about...



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300px-MS_Ghent_-_Battle_of_Tewkesbury.jpg


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Battle-poitiers(1356).jpg


"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Perry L. Goss




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robert:

Hopefully someone will jump in here. Got no clue really except....someone told me years ago that all weapons and especially armour had a different color to it because there were no high speed electric sanders/grinders back then.

Me doubts that the armour is left hammered and not finished. I think only the top 5% or so had full plate? So don't think those guys would have had nothing but the finest in that battle.

The tenor of the lecture was that the water wheel or hand buffed method left a different color to the steel. I have seen that myself on water sanding stones and electric buffers when working on my small blades I dink with. Now...from what I remember the color being discussed was a medium gray color. Not the black as in your referenced pictures. The topic revolved around tempered spring steel armour plate.

Maybe Mr. Craig Johnson can chime in or someone else?

Scottish: Ballentine, Black, Cameron, Chisholm, Cunningham, Crawford, Grant, Jaffray, MacFarlane, MacGillivray, MacKay-Reay/Strathnaver, Munro, Robertson, Sinclair, Wallace

Irish/Welsh: Bodkin, Mendenhall, Hackworth

Swiss: Goss von Rothenfluh, Naff von Zurich und Solland von Appenzel
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Jamie Szudy




Location: Malaga Spain & Madison, Wisconsin
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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2011 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

War of the Roses is a bit late for the periods I study, but my guess would be that either, as you said, the paint changed color over time, or the armor was blued. That's very different from leaving armor "black from the hammer." To blue armor (as far as I understand), you want a nice, clean surface that you coat with oil and then heat up. It helps to prevent rust, as well as looking pretty swank, especially if you have polished bronze or latten trim to set it off.
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Apr, 2011 6:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Most armour depicted in these images could have been either blackened by oil burning to turn jet black or similar blueing, or painted. Both would have been common practices to keep off rust.

Also, some could be made from iron rather than steel plate and that blackens naturally over time.

Then again, colour in what could be religious motifs often have a specific meaning rather than intending to show a truly accurate depiction.

Rough, possibly even black from the hammer can actually be seen in some surviving pieces from this time. Most famous are the german Black Sallet helmets. Rough, thick and even seemingly crudely made and often painted in heraldic coulours.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Sun 01 May, 2011 3:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I read somewhere on this forum that silver paint (which could be used to paint armour) can turn black over time. So, it may be smart to learn more about those paintings first and see if that's silver paint turned dark or just dark paint.
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Robert Hinds




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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2011 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alright, thanks for answering my questions guys. Happy
"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 02 May, 2011 1:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My rule of thumb is that if all the metal in such painting is blue/black/grey, then we might be seeing tarnished silver pigment. If, on the other hand, a man in black armour is holding a silver-colored sword, then I think the color of the armour is more likely to be what the artist intended.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Mark T




PostPosted: Tue 03 May, 2011 3:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean,

I really like that rough guide ... but then, it had me wondering if there might be any reason why an artist might have wanted to show the armour as, say tarnished, but the sword as 'gleaming' - perhaps, for symbolism, or because it might be easier to keep a sword in good condition during campaign than armour (as you'd want to be sharpening the edge, then might you give it a quick polish?), to have the slender profile of swords stand out from a sea of armour ... and so on.

Please note I'm not proposing any of the above - just wondering out loud if there might have been any reason that artists may have done it. If not, then I like that rough guide.

And, as I think you might have posted about in another thread, a while ago, there are clearly images other where the hue of the armour is meant to be black. Which is helpful. Or not, as the case may be! Happy

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Andrej Pfeiffer-Perkuhn




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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 6:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are not so many ways to paint a shiny Armour without silver. Here you can see a "black" Helmet which reflects a City nearly perfect: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...id_007.jpg

Because of this i would say in most cases such "black" Armour a meant to be normaly polished Plate Armours.

Best regards

Andrej
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Anders Kramer




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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark T wrote:
Hi Sean,

I really like that rough guide ... but then, it had me wondering if there might be any reason why an artist might have wanted to show the armour as, say tarnished, but the sword as 'gleaming' - perhaps, for symbolism, or because it might be easier to keep a sword in good condition during campaign than armour (as you'd want to be sharpening the edge, then might you give it a quick polish?), to have the slender profile of swords stand out from a sea of armour ... and so on.

Please note I'm not proposing any of the above - just wondering out loud if there might have been any reason that artists may have done it. If not, then I like that rough guide.

And, as I think you might have posted about in another thread, a while ago, there are clearly images other where the hue of the armour is meant to be black. Which is helpful. Or not, as the case may be! Happy


It seems to be that the only way of being able to highlight armour in a painting is to make the armour dark and then light it up. Maybe it is a similar thought that goes into the above paintings?

Examples:
http://www.zeno.org/Kunstwerke.images/I/18900...1085418997
http://www.zeno.org/Kunstwerke.images/I/73u303a.jpg

Or maybe its just a way of showing a lot of armour side by side without the getting picture to look unfinished/painted in that area?

I am pretty sure that it is not "black by the hammer" steel since pretty much every museum original has a smooth polished finish, or looks like it had.
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 10:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Kramer wrote:

I am pretty sure that it is not "black by the hammer" steel since pretty much every museum original has a smooth polished finish, or looks like it had.


There's a good explanation for that. The Victorians polished the hell out of anything they got their hands on.

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Anders Kramer




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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 11:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:
Anders Kramer wrote:

I am pretty sure that it is not "black by the hammer" steel since pretty much every museum original has a smooth polished finish, or looks like it had.


There's a good explanation for that. The Victorians polished the hell out of anything they got their hands on.


Even though that may be the case in some examples, I find it hard to believe that that should have happened to most of the European collection of armour. Wink
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The bigger problem is that lower-quality armour is more likely to have been scrapped over the centuries. What's on display in the great museums and collections is the best of the best, although the original finishes may be long gone. Unfortunately, one sometimes has to dig through reserve collections or smaller museums to find common infantry armour (when it survives at all).
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Kramer wrote:
Even though that may be the case in some examples, I find it hard to believe that that should have happened to most of the European collection of armour. Wink


Ah, but there's a catch. Armour we have is either an archeological find (and so will probably have lost most of it's original surface due to deterioration) or it was passed down to us (via the Victorians, who probably got their hands on it and polished it). There's no middle groud of armour that was preserved, passed down from the middle ages but not handled by Victorians.

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Graz Landeszeughaus is a notable exception. Those are almost entirely munition arms and armour. It's a later period, though, common and owned by the government, so escaped the fate of the rarer but now "badly rubbed" pieces.
-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 1:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just happened to have this on my desktop so I'll throw it up as an example of what I think is a depiction of black armour. Note the color of the sword blade. Compare with the Froissart illustrations in the OP. Other interesting aspects of this armour (ca. 1469) is that the breast is single-piece and lacks a fauld.


 Attachment: 160.98 KB
1469breast2.JPG


-Sean

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Mark T




PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 6:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I only have two other pieces to add to this jigsaw puzzle - possibly obvious, but might help give clarity to some of the above discussion:

1. I doubt that 'black from the hammer' armour would have been polished by Victorians (and others) to the point of being the seemless surfaces of properly-polished armour ... would they not have been simply polishing to retain an original surface condition of previously-polished pieces, rather than polishing out the hammer marks, surface irregularities, surface carbon, etc that one sees on 'black from the hammer' pieces?

2. I think it's safe to assume that when we see black armour in art that clearly reflects things that it has been polished, and blackened, and is not 'black from the hammer'. Happy

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 04 May, 2011 7:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe the foot tourney harness of Henry VIII that fully encloses the body/joints was originally left black but has been polished over the years to its current sheen. Parts of the armour that are hard to reach and clean exhibit the original black finish.
Happy

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Mark T




PostPosted: Thu 05 May, 2011 3:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Chad ... I'm happy to stand corrected! Happy
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Thu 05 May, 2011 7:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not an armourer, but I play one in my workshop.

One aspect of this I don't quite understand is just how "rough" armour was when it came off of the anvil/stake in a master's workshop. I used to have a notion that armour at this stage was quite rough. Then I did some very light anvil work of my own and was surprised how clean and smooth the plate was. It needed only light sanding to even and brighten the finish. As I mentioned earlier, if I had then hardened and tempered the piece without polishing it again it would be dark but just as smooth as when it left the anvil. Even a superficial polish would have brightened it. The point is, an original munition finish might be very easy to destroy. That appears to be the case with the harness Chad mentioned.

I'd like to hear more about this from experienced armourers.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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