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Ísleifur Helgason




Location: Iceland
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Aug, 2016 12:37 pm    Post subject: Early Landsknecht armor?         Reply with quote

Does any know what type of breastplate and/or body armour was most common among the Landsknecht from 1487-1500?

And how much credibility does the "no backplate" rumor have?

p.s. I am mostly talking about foot soldiers and not officers.
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Aug, 2016 4:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maximilian I commissioned thousands like the one I attached to equip his troops. As you can see a back plate was available but they really did go without it fairly regularly. IMO this is a highly historically significant cuirass that well deserves quality reproduction on a large scale.


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Edward Lee




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Aug, 2016 6:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
As you can see a back plate was available but they really did go without it fairly regularly


If they had backplate readily available, why didn't they use it often? Did it have something to do with firearms?
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Tue 09 Aug, 2016 8:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The top two overused explanations for things in the arms and armor community are probably firearms and fashion.

In this particular case I don't know of any record of a hauptmann or other concerned party stating exactly why they commonly dropped the back plate. Taken in context of the rest of their gear and the way they fought which are subjects we do know something about it seems pretty clear that they often chose to go without a back plate because it saved them several pounds on their overall loadout yet cost them only a small fraction of their passive defense, probably something on the order of 15%.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1502_Die_Schlacht_im_Walde_anagoria.JPG
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Tue 09 Aug, 2016 10:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When an set of chest armour has been made with a backplate it is actually impossible to wear the breastplate without the backplate as all of the straps are mounted on the back plate. Wearing the breastplate on it's own would require manufacturing and mounting both straps and additional buckles and is not something you do on the spur of the moment.
A breastplate that was worn on it's own had most probably been made to be worn alone from the very begining or been deliberatly altered by an armoureer.
Maximilian's surviving archive actually shows that some of the infantry armour he purchased and issued was breastplates only.


It should be noted that the "Schlacht im Wald" painting does for the most part not show landsknechts, the majority of the infantry shown are in fact Nürnberg militia who bore the brunt of the combat in the battle. The söldner in Nürnberg service are found only in a small part of the painting as they arrieved late to the party while Kasimir von Brandenburg-Kulmbach only fielded a small number of Landsknecht and Swiss alongside his cavalry and peasant levy and the artist chose to focus almost exclusivly on Kasimir's cavalry which was most hotly engaged. I have details of the battle and a number of close up photos of the painting taken by me in the 16th Century section of my blog
http://kriegsbuch.blogspot.se/search/label/16th%20Century

Based on my on my practical experience with landsknecht armour and pike fighting the backplate provides a good deal more than "15%" of your actual protection in combat and there is a significant difference in how vulberable you are with or without it. Because you stand sideways when using the pike the back or rather the rear half of the side of your body gets more exposed than one thinks. When we started sparring with pikes we were suprised by the number of thrusts that were able to hit that area and it made it quite clear why the doppelsöldner who formed the front ranks were required to wear fairly extensive armour.

One very good source for early Landsknecht armour and apperance is the drawings by Paul Dolnstein who served in a number of campaigns as one. In particular he both drew and provided written descriptions of the armour in use during the 1502 Danish-Swedish war and the 1504 Landshut war.





"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Aug, 2016 12:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Staberg wrote:

It should be noted that the "Schlacht im Wald" painting does for the most part not show landsknechts,


It does show the strapping used to secure a breastplate without a backplate.

Quote:
I have details of the battle and a number of close up photos of the painting taken by me in the 16th Century section of my blog
http://kriegsbuch.blogspot.se/search/label/16th%20Century


That's a great resource, thanks for sharing!

Quote:
Because you stand sideways when using the pike the back or rather the rear half of the side of your body gets more exposed than one thinks.


I know I'm not going to change your interpretation via the internet but you really shouldn't do it that way. It doesn't matter though, I'll totally ignore defensive patterns too and focus on the gear itself. That back plate only covers a small portion of the anatomy, it doesn't cover the lower back or pelvis which are large and easily struck targets full of vital structures that when damaged can leave you immobilized, paralyzed or dead. It also doesn't cover the uppermost portion of the back, to say nothing of the limbs. It's *at best* what? between 1/4 or 1/5 of the target area on a side of your body you shouldn't be regularly exposing in the first place. Any way you look at it a very large number of foot soldiers who wanted a breast plate didn't feel the back plate was worth it in the grand scheme of things.

Quote:

When we started sparring with pikes we were suprised by the number of thrusts that were able to hit that area and it made it quite clear why the doppelsöldner who formed the front ranks were required to wear fairly extensive armour.


Well, I know I wouldn't want to stand in a pike block without extensive armor! Do we have any reliable figures on their attrition rates? On the one hand it looks like it would have to be staggering, on the other hand there never seemed to be much of a shortage of men willing to take their chances.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 10 Aug, 2016 1:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What about the factor of price? If Maximilian commissioned thousands of sets of armour, leaving out the back plate would probably reduce the cost by half. Financial considerations should not be underestimated, particularly since no emperor had unlimited coffers to draw upon. Looking at it another way, if he had enough money to pay for 1,500 landsknechts dressed in back and breast, then (assuming leaving out the back plate reduces the cost by half) he would have enough money to provide 3,000 men with breastplates. Considering how many more men would be at least partly armoured, only commissioning the breastplate might have been immensely practical from a strategic sense.
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Wed 10 Aug, 2016 1:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:


That's a great resource, thanks for sharing!


Glad you liked it, the painting in question is a fascinating source and I spent 30 odd minutes discovering new details and taking additional photos of it a couple of weeks ago.

Mike Ruhala wrote:
.


I know I'm not going to change your interpretation via the internet but you really shouldn't do it that way. It doesn't matter though, I'll totally ignore defensive patterns too and focus on the gear itself. That back plate only covers a small portion of the anatomy, it doesn't cover the lower back or pelvis which are large and easily struck targets full of vital structures that when damaged can leave you immobilized, paralyzed or dead. It also doesn't cover the uppermost portion of the back, to say nothing of the limbs. It's *at best* what? between 1/4 or 1/5 of the target area on a side of your body you shouldn't be regularly exposing in the first place. Any way you look at it a very large number of foot soldiers who wanted a breast plate didn't feel the back plate was worth it in the grand scheme of things.


You might be surprised by my willingness to change my interpretations when supplied with historical sources and good arguments Happy so if you are willing to write more on the subject I'd be happy to read it. Our intrepretation is based on Swedish, Dutch and German sources, granted many of them are from the 1590-1670 period but they include bth military manuals and veteran accounts. We have place much weight on the reported frontages of combat units. I'm out of time at the moment but more details to follow.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Mike Ruhala




Location: Stuart, Florida
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PostPosted: Wed 10 Aug, 2016 4:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's not an unreasonable assumption, Craig. The trick here is that for whatever combination of reasons this particular time frame, the late 15th/early 16th century saw the mass production of high quality armors at affordable prices. The particular cuirass under discussion actually incorporates a number of cost-cutting features that would reduce the price relative to a number of other common armors of the time. For example the curves are relatively simple, minimal fluting, the faulds are constructed in such a way they can be adjusted in or out... the shape of the top of the breast and back plate accommodates some variation in fit though personally I believe that mobility was the bigger concern. Nevertheless Daniel is correct that breast-plate-only variations exist, whether that was aftermarket adjustment by an armorer or they were made that way I can't confirm but I'd lean towards taking Daniel at his word.

Digging through my archives I found some more pics I have of that pattern of brustharnisch and I found what I believe is a more intact example of the back plate which incorporates faulds for additional protection over the lower back. I didn't have any pics of the breast-plate-only configuration but that is likely just selection bias on my part, I've been thinking about commissioning this brustharnisch for quite a while and I was interested in the complete setup.

Daniel, as far as stance goes I would suggest trying your feet and hips (nearly) sideways to your opponent/s and square your torso more. Point your knee at your opponent but I'm sure you already do that. This does two things,first it gets you better coverage from your breast plate and second it allows you to step forward with a thrust and rotate your torso adding strength and solidity from your core and body weight to your action. In my experience this is a little different than how many Eastern martial artists and modern sport scientists approach body mechanics but is the most common case for the great majority of traditional Western martial arts and many other athletic and even dance activities. You definitely will still expose a bit of your back at times and there's ways to account for that either with help from the other guys in your ranks, your timing or peculiarities in the execution of particular offensive or defensive actions but unfortunately that's all stuff that's much easier to show in person. Too bad we're separated by an ocean, I'm actually a really huge enthusiast of the KDF staff weapons and I bet we'd have a lot of fun playing pikes together. Happy

Oh yeah, again easier to show than tell, but there's a neat trick you can do with thrusts from weapons that don't have a cutting edge like a small sword, epee du combat or in this case a pike... allow an incoming attack to miss you by just a little bit, then when the point is past take opposition against the shaft of the weapon with your body and ride right up it to land your blow. If you're familiar with how you use the guard on weapons like the rapier, small sword, saber, etc to "snowplow" past an opponent's blade it's essentially the same thing except you're using your back/shoulder/traps/arm/whatever instead of your weapon and again, don't try it on cutting weapons unless you're appropriately armored. Anyway another point of consideration with a sideways initial stance is that it exposes what is these days called the "armpit gap" in your armor, they can go right through the arm hole or even your shoulder and reach the vitals. It's just much more effective to square up your torso in a leger stance when wearing torso armor, modern police and military circles seem to have independently discovered that in the 20th century as well and squaring up when armored is commonly taught in combat shooting today.



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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug, 2016 3:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a a series of good photos of a slightly later (1508) breastplate that was part of an order of 4000 that Maximilian placed with the city of Nürnberg
http://philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/...8000715|2#

This is probably represenative of the "breastplate-only" style with it's lack of hinges and the cut outs just above the fauld which helped the straps remain in place. (This type usually had two long straps riveted at the shoulders which were then crossed to form an "X" on the back before being tied or secured with a buckle on the front like a belt, a simple but cheap and reasonably effective way of securing the breastplate.)

A similar breastplate from Hermann Historica which probably belongs to the same large order, a few diffrences in how the last plate of the fauld is shaped for example and it does have hinges. But the hinges could be a later addition.


IMHO the presence of the cut-outs above the fauld strongly points to the breastplate being made to be worn alone, however it is not t impossible use it together with a backplate from technical viewpoint. But both the artwork and preserved armour seems to suggest that breastplates worn with a backplate tend to lack the cut-outs.





Close up of the breastplate above with the tassets removed




The presence of hinges at the shoulder are also a hint that the breastplate was intended to be worn with a backplate though as always there is the possibility that the hinges were added after construction either during the breastplates working life or when part of later day collections/displays. (The Imperial armoury in Wien has a number of examples of the later as a number of their 16th Century armours have had the tassets fitted with a later style of leather strap and buckles attachments rather than the original attachments.)

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Mark Griffin




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug, 2016 2:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the great pics, very useful!
Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Wed 17 May, 2017 7:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Since Daniel posted about Dolstein's drawing, I would like to ask something related to them, but more generally to the overall landsknecht use of helmets:

In generall, I often see portrails of landsknecht wearing literally little to no armor at all, helmet included. Dolstein is perhaps the only execption I know so far.

I know Landsknecht used to hate wearing armour outside actual battles, so that's probably explain why the carvings shows them in a more "casual manner" (as if they were in daily campsite live). Still, I have to ask: is it true that most of the Landsknechts, at least in the period 1487 to 1515/1525, were known to not be so armoured as, for example, the swiss were? The aketon or other padded garment was worn beneath the clothings to ease the cuirasses worn other their dresses?

Before, I even thought that landsknecht would literally march to battle using only casual dresses and hats, but I saw in some of Dolstein's drawing that they used some sort of helmet under the hat, like this:


http://d16452122.u206.worldispnetwork.com/ima...CT0600.jpg
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Fri 19 May, 2017 4:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:
Since Daniel posted about Dolstein's drawing, I would like to ask something related to them, but more generally to the overall landsknecht use of helmets:

In generall, I often see portrails of landsknecht wearing literally little to no armor at all, helmet included. Dolstein is perhaps the only execption I know so far.

There are more artists than Dolnstein who show armour being worn by Landsknechts, The "Weiss Kunig" illustrated by Hans Burgkmair contains armoured Landsknechts in just about every one of it's numerous battle scences, Hans Döring, Erhard Schön, The Petrarcameister and Albrecht Dürer also depicted Landsknechts in armour. There are others as well but many of the less well known or anonymous artists are hard or impossible to find online, rather one has to use specifik books or visit museums.

In general you will not find much armour in the classic Landsknecht "portraits" as the pictures of single landsknechts were seldom intended to show them in battle or ready for battle. The focus is much more on their elaborate dress.


Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:

I know Landsknecht used to hate wearing armour outside actual battles, so that's probably explain why the carvings shows them in a more "casual manner" (as if they were in daily campsite live). Still, I have to ask: is it true that most of the Landsknechts, at least in the period 1487 to 1515/1525, were known to not be so armoured as, for example, the swiss were? The aketon or other padded garment was worn beneath the clothings to ease the cuirasses worn other their dresses?

I doubt you will find period sources that state that Landsknechts "hated" to wear armour outside battle, like just about all 16th Century soldiers they saw no reason to wear armour when it was not needed and when possible armour was transported by other means than the owner wearing it when on the march.

It is impossible to make any conclusions about the level of armour in use among the Landsknechts in 1487-1525, men saw service by the tens of thousand in those years and we are easily talking about a total over 100.000 landsknechts, probably considerably more. Yet we only have a few scraps of hard data for a very limited number of them. (Artwork is not hard data except in a few cases when done by eyewitnesses like Dolnstein.)

It is usually the case that the Swiss are considered to have been less well armoured than the Landsknechts but just what this conclusion is based on is hard to say. There certainly are some documents and musters which show only limited amounts of armour in use or complain about the lack of armour but again it i hazardous to draw sweeping conclusions from such limited material.

Aketons or padded garments are not in evidence beyond one or two very rare depictions that could possibly be interpreted as padded garments. With a properly made wams & shirt your really don't need a padded garment under the armour as you already have multiple layers of wool, linen and possibly silk. Of course the armor will not be as well fitted to the body as the custom made or semi-custom made armour of the nobility and heavy cavalrymen but the fit is good enough for foot combat.


Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:

Before, I even thought that landsknecht would literally march to battle using only casual dresses and hats, but I saw in some of Dolstein's drawing that they used some sort of helmet under the hat, like this:


Paul Dolnstein refers to this type of helmet as a "hirn", short for "hirnhaube", the Dolnstein version seems to be related to the sallet but the name was applied to a variety of shortend sallets and skull caps in use among both Landsknechts and the Swiss. These helmets can be seen in the artwork of Urs Graf, Hans Burgkmair and Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen to name some of the most easily found artists.

Before the introduction of the "sturmhaube" (burgonet) it is the helmet most commonly associated with the Landsknechts.

"There is nothing more hazardous than to venture a battle. One can lose it
by a thousand unforseen circumstances, even when one has thorougly taken all
precautions that the most perfect military skill allows for."
-Fieldmarshal Lennart Torstensson.
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Fri 19 May, 2017 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Edward Lee wrote:
Quote:
As you can see a back plate was available but they really did go without it fairly regularly


If they had backplate readily available, why didn't they use it often? Did it have something to do with firearms?


99.9% of the time your armour is just something heavy and uncomfortable to carry around or stand about in.
Droping the back plate save you from carrying the 2kg or so of steel.
Also the back is lower priority area, it's rarely open to attack, tassets are probably a more usefull
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