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Donald MacNeil

Location: Illinois
Joined: 23 Mar 2013

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Wed 07 May, 2014 6:55 pm    Post subject: Gothic Armour at Thomas DelMar Sale May 7 2014         Reply with quote

Congratulations to the purchaser of Clarence Mackayís gothic armour, Lot 133 in the second John Woodman Higgins sale at Thomas DelMar, May 7, 2014. That was well-purchased and may have been the best buy in the sale. I was the next highest bidder but hesitated because I hadnít seen the armour in person. No one else seemed to want it, probably because of the missing right upper leg, but Iím already regretting not getting it.

You may know more about the armour than I, but here are my thoughts. At the Higgins it was exhibited with mail shirt and sleeves, which apparently were not included in the sale. I was going to buy a modern mail shirt on the worldís largest online marketplace for around $100.

Speaking of modern, Stephen Grancsay in the 1961 hard cover catalog of the Higgins listed the helmet as authentic. Some time after that someone, probably at the museum, decided it was modern. Which leads me to say that museums seem to have gotten paranoid about what elements of armour are authentic or not, with the result that some good-looking exhibits are now missing suspect pieces or missing entirely.

Regarding missing pieces, the right cuisse was present when the armour was cataloged in 1961 and again for various official museum photos. Converse to what I was just saying about museums and suspect pieces, the now-missing cuisse was the authentic one and even had a mark.

Someone at the DelMar sale was desperate to buy Lot 209, which was a set of gothic cuisses, so I suppose it might have been the new owner of the Mackay gothic.

Itís been exhibited with the gorget-plate both outside and inside the breastplate. I rather like it inside. Take a look at Lot 67, Hermann Historica, Klingbeil Sale, October 24, 2012, which has the same svelte lines as the one weíre talking about but probably sold for a lot more. Also, look for #2606 s-p at for interesting pictures of the Mackay armour, including the missing cuisse.

Since Bashford Dean had his hands on it, it should be in proper order, restorations, compositions, and replacements notwithstanding. It seems now that there is some skepticism about his armour, since he was so good at fixing them up. Take the splendid black gothic armour at the Metropolitan, which was put away long ago because they decided that the helmet and breastplate might be its only authentic elements. It came out temporarily last year to celebrate Dr. Deanís hundredth anniversary. Well, the Met has lots of great armour, but Deanís black one is still a beauty and should be shown. Likewise, Iím sure the Mackay gothic is a pretty nice piece and shiny as only a museum could make it. Enjoy!

Iím a fan of Bashford Deanís and am familiar with one of his from the previous Higgins/DelMar sale (Lot 281, March 20, 2013). Again, there were restorations, and I think the museum experts were understandably confused about what was restored and what was not. The helmet, described in the 1961 catalog as Spanish, which in armour context really means German, became French then Italian as time went on. The DelMar people in their catalog felt more confident in the armour than the Higgins staff, who were waffling all over the place, maybe just to avoid insulting someone's new purchase. Oddly, the one item the Higgins folk thought for sure was authentic was the cod, which in my opinion was unwearable by any male because of the way it extended between the legs.

Notwithstanding the various opinions on what's authentic and what is a restoration, that armour was a beauty, like all of Dr. Deanís. The auctioneer must have been particularly fond of this armour, too, because he practically begged the underbidder to keep going.
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Shahril Dzulkifli

Location: Malaysia
Joined: 13 Dec 2007
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 1,265

PostPosted: Sat 31 May, 2014 6:29 am    Post subject: Gothic Armour at Thomas DelMar Sale May 7 2014         Reply with quote

Just visited the Higgins Collection website. Various artifacts including Bronze Age arms and armour were put on display.
The Higgins Armory Museum, which keeps the artifacts, closed on the final day of 2013 after 83 years of establishment but now it has been integrated into the Worcester Art Museum, which is located a few miles away from the former museum.

ďYou have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strengthĒ

- Marcus Aurelius
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James Arlen Gillaspie
Industry Professional

Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

Posts: 587

PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2014 9:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Almost nothing on that suit is German 'gothic' at all. The real bits are all pretty much c. 1500, except for the plackart of the breasplate. The legharness would be the exception, looking very Italian second half 15th c. The greaves may or may not be real, but the profile views on the Higgins site make them look very good. The sabatons are astonishingly bad! WTF?! The helmet skull looks right to me for c. 1500, but I would have to handle it before saying what I thought of it.

I agree about the Met's black 'gothic', since the Scudamore armours are still on display. After all, there is only one 'German gothic' harness in all the world that can claim to be complete and homogeneous, and that is the Kunsthistorisches Museum's (Vienna) A 62, the famous 'Sigismund gothic'.
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