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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Identifying armour style in painting for new armour project Reply to topic
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Morten Lahrmann

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Joined: 10 Jan 2008

Posts: 6

PostPosted: Mon 13 Aug, 2012 2:03 am    Post subject: Identifying armour style in painting for new armour project         Reply with quote

Dear all

I am currently looking into purchasing a new set of armour for (amongst other things) fighting Battle of the Nations (BotN), which is becoming increasingly popular here in Denmark.
I have found a painting by Rogier van der Weyden from around 1460, which I would like to use as the basis for the armour. I plan to have the armour made from tempered spring steel, blackend as shown on the painting and with similar use of brass for buckles etc.

The painting

However, before moving along, I have a few challenges that I hope someone in here might be able to help me with;

Firstly, the armour does not fit any armour style known to me making it my impression that the style of the armour is Flemish (also based on the artist); is that correct, and would anyone happen to know some more sources of this style of armour?
It looks like the breast- and backplate are joined by a set of hinges, which I haven’t seen before; anyone know of other armours with a similar construction or general knowledge about this?
On the painting is shown a helmet, which does not fit my needs for fighting BotN. I am considering a basinet with an aventail or perhaps a armet, but am considering if there might be a more appropriate helmet for this style of armour?

Hope someone will be able to help shed light on these issues Happy


Morten Lahrmann
Compagnie de Vignolles, Denmark
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Ian S LaSpina

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Aug, 2012 7:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Honestly, the armor in the painting doesn't look all that dissimilar to me from the famed Toby Capwell harness reproduction. Dr Capwell's harness is late 15th Century English. As for a helmet, unless you were going to go with a form of grand bascinet designed for the joust, I would recommend an armet for that period. A traditional bascinet (houndskull or klappvisor) would be far too early (1360 - early 1400's perhaps, depending on style) to be matched with that armor.

Here's a link to Dr Capwell's flickr album of his armor:

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Rune Vildhoj

Location: Denmark
Joined: 21 Jun 2012

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Aug, 2012 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since your are based in Denmark, I would recommend that you check out "Gyldendals og Politikens Danmarkshistorie" from around 1989, specificly volumes 6 and 7 (1400-1600) at the local library. These volumes (especially 7, though a few decades after your preference) have several good illustrations of noblemens armour, some consistent with your choice. Although the overall flavour seems more German than Flemish, you can find all sorts with various matching period helmets. A basinet would definitely be outdated in latter part of the 15th century.

As for the case of hinges joining front and back (not only breast- and backplates, but often also faulds), this is not unheard of from this period. In general one may even say there are two major schools, or perhaps ways to approach the matter, within the making of armours. Some are detachable in many smaller pieces joined by leatherstraps or possibly tied directly onto arming clothes underneath, while some some are joined in larger sections by rivets or even hinges. There is no right or wrong, more or less historical prefence in this matter, since both were found (though not equally common) - it is basically what you are most comfortable with. I have tried wearing both and there are argument either way.
But as far as I can tell from the uppermost picture you posted, it seem that there are in fact two plates protecting the chest, strapped together, which would make me inclined to guess there would also be straps hidden from wiev underneath both of this gentlemans arms.

Be aware that some extra hardened steels does not take equally well to all kinds of blackenings - I've had issues with this - so ask for some extra scaps of metal when you commision your armour, if this darkening is not done for your.

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Blaz Berlec

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Aug, 2012 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The painting is 'Sforza triptych' (workshop of Rogier van der Weyden), Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten, Brussel, Belgium, ca. 1450-1460.

Here's the link to the whole tryptich:

Commissioned by Alessandro Sforza (1409-1479), a member of the Pesaro branch of the Sforza family of Milan. Alessandro Sforza is kneeling before the Crucifixion at the centre - his head was painted on a separate piece of foil and then stuck into the picture - with two members of his family who cannot be identified for certain.
On the same level, the wings of the triptych show St Bavo and St Francis on the left, and St Catherine and St Barbara on the right.
On the shutters are St Jerome and St George painted in grisaille.

I would say that this is completely Italian - "Milanese" armour, not a Flemish derivative, since Allesandro Sforza was most probably painted in his own best armour. Hinged breast and backplate, and central strap that holds together breastplate and plackart are all Italian features, as is the small stop-rib below neck (this shape is very indicative of a 1450 - 1460 date). It's a very elegant armour, and very symmetrical and slim compared to most surviving or depicted armours of that age:

Extant 15th Century German Gothic Armour
Extant 15th century Milanese armour
Arming doublet of the 15th century
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Till J. Lodemann

Joined: 15 Jan 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 3:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hei Morten, this armour is very nice, but I would like to ask why you did choose this armour?

I ask because it is a very unusual style for Battle of the Nations. Nearly all of us in Germany who do this fighting style use late 14th/early 15th century kit, the Polish also use late 14th century kit, nearly exclusively.
The Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians use a mixture of western european late 14th/early 15th century kit and eastern european "rus" or tartarean style armour augmented with hidden reenforcements.

I did not see any late 15th century milanese armour around Warsaw this year. Only a hand full of guys in late 15th century german gothic stuff. I even saw a kastenbrust :-)
I think milanese armour is a style more suited for mounted combat.
I don't know which kind of discipline you are planning to participate in. But in all disciplines you will need mobility and quick motions. Lightness and sturdiness are the key factors for nearly all parts of the armour in BoN-style fighting. You will need the full range of motion your body can do without armour. Thats why you see not so much lame articulated arms or legs on the professional fighters of Russia or Poland. Most use floating joint articulation and composite body armour (Visby coat of plates, brigantines). The limb armour is mostly splinted and made with thin (0,8-1mm) tempered steel..

In this video, you can see lots of armour (though much of it hidden under the team-surcots):

While I really can understand the desire for good protection, most of the guys who built up their first armour for BoN end up with something way to heavy and stiff. That can be dangerous, too. You get very exhausted from your amour, you get beaten up very hard in a buhurd because you cannot run well, or you trip and fall and harm yourself because of the heavy armour.
I saw that most of the danish fighters still wear quite heavy armour, so you might not have felt the need for lighter armour, but if you ever stand against the polish 5vs5 team for example, the will be around you and on top of you in a second. They are VERY fast and all wear quite light armour.

Another point is cost effectiveness. Such an armour is very complicated to build and will be expensive. I don't know how much you are willing to spend, but it will surely be a substantial sum of money. And it will take a lot of time to be made. You could get a armour which is better suited for the task in less time (giving you more time to train and fight in it) and with less money if you chose an earlier style. A friend of mine got a very good buhurd/ 1vs1 specialized armour custom made for him from around 1360 for 1.400 euro, all hardened and tempered spring steel and weighing around 13 kg without helmet and gauntlets. It is nothing fancy, yet beautiful in it's simplicity. And he doesn't even feel it when he wears it. The CoP is lighter then a leather jacket...

While a nice milanese harness is a thing of beauty, it is not an ideal armour for Battle of the Nations.
I don't want to say that you cannot fight in this armour, but you really have to decide what you want to do with it. If you want to fight successfully on an international level, it might not be the best choice.


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William P

Location: Sydney, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 4:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i also heard a bunch of guys turned up in very nice looking black and white style 16th century armour more 3/4 armour and stuff by the end of the competition it was mangled by the russian maces and hammers etc.. at which point they said.. next year i think we will rethink outr armour choice

my friend whoes going the russian look for the aussie and NZ team is going with russian styleplated maile himself.
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Reece Nelson

Location: Overland Park KS
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 5:39 pm    Post subject: BotN armour         Reply with quote

Having looked closer at the image and seen the Italian mitten gauntlets behind him, I think its safe to say that he would have used an Italian Armet.

I think an armet would properly work for this kit, as well as provide excellent protection for use in the battle of the nations, seeing how they are very form fitting Wink

I really like the spaulders in this image Happy Looks as though the metal flares out more then what you typically see, maybe to act as besicuis to protect the arm pit? Very interesting design


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Morten Lahrmann

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Joined: 10 Jan 2008

Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue 21 Aug, 2012 4:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the input all around!

Regarding the choice of armour for BotN, I get your pointe, Till and thank you for the input. Basically the fighters from the Danish National Team came home saying very much the same; that they needed to be lighter and faster. I have also been planning to build an armour along the lines of efficiency and speed, comprised of a CoP and splinted arms/legs if nothing else for training and to have the possibility to choose depending on the battle ahead.
For the moment my focus is mainly team battles at the Danish tournaments and to participate in something abroad next year. Though I would love to, I simply do not have the time to commit myself to try out for the Danish National Team. Unfortunately, as most of the current team are good friends of mine Happy

The depicted armour is also supposed to be used in various large battles (not BotN) and fighting shows at medieval events in Denmark, so my reasoning is that when having a new armour made I am thinking that I might as well have it made with the toughest environment in mind, which for at the moment seem to be BotN. Properly, I would also be inclined to use it in some of the Danish tournaments which are still pretty easy going compared to other countries. My current armour is a gothic full plate weighing around 30kg, so getting the weight down to around 20kg incl. maille would be a great improvement everything considered.

Armet would properly be the way to go for this, thank you for the input Happy

Regarding the hinges, I am considering abandoning them in the name of functionality; the added adjustment capability of straps and buckles plus the possibility of the hinges being damaged seem to be not really worth the risk

I agree that the cuirass have quite a few similarities to the Robert MacPherson armour previously owned by Tobias Capwell, though I would argue that there are also some notable differences. That being said I have always been amazed by the range of movement Capwell seemed to have in the armour, and it would be something I would as the armourer to look into for a reproduction of the depicted armour.

Morten Lahrmann
Compagnie de Vignolles, Denmark
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Aug, 2012 1:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The armour that van der Weyden used as the model for his painting has many Italian features, but is not mainstream c. 1450's Italian armour. It should be kept in mind that most of the better Flemish smiths were ethnic Italians, and there was always a lot of migration from Northern Italy to Flanders. Notable differences are the very deep fauld, with more lames than usual, with smaller tassets, very much like the harness of Friedrich the Victorious in Wien, which is not in the Italian style but in the French style ( when people ask me about that harness, I tell them it is NOT in the 'Milanese' style, but armour made by Italians in the French style for a German! Wink ). The arms are remarkably symmetrical, including the spaudlers, which should be large asymmetrical pauldrons if they were in the Italian style. The spaudlers are VERY interesting, with their little flanges on the front that help to protect the gap between spaudler and breastplate a little better, and their upward lapping lames below the point of the shoulder, which anticipate those on later German 'gothic' tilting pauldrons. But then there is the strangest thing; the couters appear to be articulated, and such an arm cannot work without some sort of 'turner' like those on 16th c. armour. When I look at the picture, I see... well, it looks very much like a 'turner'.
Finally, the typical Milanese production harness was called 'white armour' for a reason. A bright polish was standard, with very rare exceptions. In Flanders, on the other hand, such dark armours were quite popular, if the artwork of the period is to be believed.

Morten, I like your taste in armour. It's a very handsome example.
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Bennison N

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PostPosted: Thu 23 Aug, 2012 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
my friend whoes going the russian look for the aussie and NZ team is going with russian styleplated maile himself.

Hey William! Who's that, then? I've been thinking over armour for the Oz/NZ team (we Kiwis will have our own team by then at the rate things are going!) in 2014, and had similar ideas. I'd be keen to have a chat with your mate and compare. I thought the announced standard for the Oz team for 2013 was 14th Century English with added back support?

Till J. Lodemann wrote:
The Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians use a mixture of western european late 14th/early 15th century kit and eastern european "rus" or tartarean style armour augmented with hidden reenforcements.

Hey Till... Do you have more info on these "hidden reinforcements"? I'd like to incorporate some, and we all know that if the Russians can do it, it's allowed. Wink Those Golden Horde and Rus kits are my favourite of the ones I've seen so far. I was thinking of a Khazagand and Lamellar Jawshan myself... I can't think of a suit better suited to speed and agility. It'll need some reinforcements, though.

Hey Morten! Didn't the Danish team win the "Best Authentic Camp" award this year? Awesome stuff, boys!

"Never give a sword to a man who can't dance" - Confucius

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Morten Lahrmann

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Joined: 10 Jan 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Sep, 2012 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey again

Just got back from the last event of the season and have started working on the design specification for the armour Happy

Regarding the couters being a “turner”, I am also thinking that the forearms would be attached with sliding rivets allowing for 4-5 cm of “twisting” movement.

Regarding the backplate, would anyone happen to have a source a backplate fitting the armour depicted?
I am thinking along the lines of a somewhat simple Milanese plate.

Once again, thanks for all your input, look forward to posting images of the finished product sometime in the future Happy

Morten Lahrmann
Compagnie de Vignolles, Denmark
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