One of my favorite things to rummage through online museum collections for has got to be metalwork, especially arms and armor. The intricacy in the design of medieval and Renaissance armor is simply fascinating.
Of course, most of the armor found in museums today is flamboyant for a reason. Glitz and glam were not very necessary on an actual battlefield, so most of the armor used in combat was not quite so elaborate as it was practical, and most did not survive to present day. Further, following the explosion (forgive the pun) of firearms use following the Hundred Years' War in the mid 15th century continuing through until the early 1600's, metal armor slowly became obsolete. It failed to protect against modern weapons, and was unreasonably cumbersome (most suits of armor weighed 30kg or more). Thus, armor became a type of formal or ceremonial dress wear and was eventually considered bygone in practical use (don't tell the Swiss Guard).
|Armor of Henry II of France, ca. 1555.|
|Shield of Henry II of France, ca. 1555.|
|Shaffron of Henry II of France when Dauphin,|
Romain des Ursins, ca. 1490-1500.
|Gorget, French, ca. 1600-1625.|
|Burgonet, Italian, Filippo Negroli, 1543.|
|Reinforcing Buffe with Tilting Targe,|
|Shaffron and Crinet, Franco-Italian, Romain des Ursins,|
|Gorget, French, ca. 1660-1610.|
|Burgonet, Italian, Lucio Piccinino, ca. 1575.|
|Swept Hilt Rapier, English, ca. 1600.|
|Dress Sword, English, Matthew Boulton,|
|And a bit of modern "dress" armor from|
Dior's Fall 2006 Couture collection.