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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jan, 2006 3:30 am    Post subject: A visit to mantova's Museo Diocesano - XV century armor         Reply with quote

Yesterday I paid a visit to Mantova's diocesis museum. It features some of the finest surviving XV century armors still in existence, a few pieces but rare.

All provided with their great looking armets.

There I also managed to see an extremely rare copy of the Boccia's text on XV century armor, maybe I will get access to a copy for myself too.

A first consideration: metal of such armor was paper thin.

Time and rusting may have left some mark, anyway during my visit I paid close attention to details, especially the thicknes of each piece.

Only the visor of a year 1550 armet appeared to be (from visual inspection) thicker than 1 mm.

The rest of the armors was made with paper thin metal, despite polishing thicknes of the pieces mustn't have changed much: there were almost no traces of pitting on pieces, and they all showed to be extremely thin.

Examining the interior of a cannon vambrace, I noticed that the signs of hammering were evident on the interinal surface.

More important, I realized that this XV century armor was created with thelp of geometry: each piece shows three-dimensional characteristics that are most likely the producyct of an extensive use of 3D geometry, a science that was well developed at time and in great estimate among scientists.

The armor in exhibit is mostly the same that can be seen in Paolo Uccello's Battle of San Romano: well, the painter was a master at depicting such armor, his three-dimensional rendition is perfect.

One would think by seeng his paintings without prior knowledge of such armor that the painter depicted armor in a too geometrical way, while the observation of the actual pieces shows that most likely he used the same calculatons the master armors did when realizing such pieces.

Also, at close exhamination I discovered that most of modern repro pieces are not exactly made, because they rarely reproduce the ridges that are seen in some places, for example the upper brim of cuirasses, of greaves, or the brim of visors and top of helm in the armets, around where there the eye slit opens. Such ridges are protruding outwards, the cuirasses' ridges are really thick.

Gauntlets ever features inside rolled edgs, the ridge of such rolling being thin instead.

Such ridges are ever absent in repro pieces.

Weight: one complete XV century milanese armor of this serie weights 23 kg only: a consideration that matches my observations on metal thickness.

Maille: maille inserts feature very, very small riveted rings, being made of tiny diameter wire, so small as to look like a jeweller's work, the last three or four rows being ever made of brass.

From my visual estimate I could guess that their diameter is no more than 6 mm, while wire appear 0.2, 0.4 mm at most.
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Wolfgang Armbruster





Joined: 03 Apr 2005

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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jan, 2006 5:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ahh, interesting Happy
You didn't take a few pictures by accident?

To me it's truly an amazing skill to be able to make steel so light and yet strong that it resists longbows and composite-crossbows (and Northern Italy was overrun with crossbowmen at that time Eek! )
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jan, 2006 5:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nay, wife forgot the camera.

I will surely return there, it is a few miles from where I live
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Chuck Russell




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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jan, 2006 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

amen. modern armourers usually get it wrong in such aspects. the human body is not flat, and any armour that is flat does not fit correctly.

hurry up and get us some pictures! Happy
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James Arlen Gillaspie
Industry Professional



Location: upstate NY
Joined: 10 Nov 2005

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PostPosted: Mon 09 Jan, 2006 9:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I only took a few pictures when I was there - I already had Boccia's book. I wish I had it with me - there were plenty of views that the book doesn't give. You can never have too many if you make armour.
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Bruno Giordan





Joined: 28 Sep 2005

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PostPosted: Tue 10 Jan, 2006 4:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A little afterthought: please consder that such armors were conceived for people whose height and frame was on average smaller and lighter than today.

The mantova's armor waistlines are apparently very narrow, also the height of the owners mustn't have been excessive (the armors are kept in glass cases, so they are hovering roughly 25 - 30 cm from the floor), my visual guess is that the men of Mantova were in the 165 - 170 cm range of height, while they appeared roughly half my body frame.

I have found a pic in a booklet I bought there ( I promise to scan it) where one of such armors is worn by a smith's assistant during the restoration work of the twenties: the man wears well one of such armor, an on that period the average height of the italians was 165 cm.

Restoration work were made by the then Britih Museum curator Dr James Gow Mann, who had discovered them under a century old blacket of dust and sooth in 1926 in the old church of the Madonna delle Grazie.

He brought the armors, blackened by soot, in a smith's shop, there with the help with a smith and a saddlemaker he boiled each piece, in order to liberate them from grime.

Interestingly, any leather strap on the exposed armor is made of a grash leather, all are from the same batch: they seem to appear also in the uncleaned armors, so they are antecedent to this restoration, they are detachable, however it is clear hat they are likely replacement.

The armors had benn given to the sanctuary by the Gonzaga family as a dress for the statues of knights tha had been erected inside as ex voto gifts to the Madonna: it is reported that man y uomini d'arme for centuries had brought as ex voto their weapons to teh sanctuary.

So the lower level of the church was then literally crammed with swords of any kind and epoch, all of them being today lost.

Soldiers would bring them to the church as a gift to thank the Madonna for having saved them in battle.
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