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Gorget

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1600-1625 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Iron, embossed, chiselled and engraved

  • Credit Line:

    Received in exchange from the Louvre

  • Museum number:

    M.19-1976

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 6, The Lisa and Bernard Selz Gallery, case CA1 []

The early history of this armoured collar is unclear although it is likely it came from the French Royal Armouries. During the nineteenth century it was in the Cabinet d'Armes of the Emperor Napoleon III at the Chateau Pierrefonds, where inventories of 1865 and 1867 annotate it with the letters 'M.L.' for Musée de Louvre.

This gorget is an item of costume armour rather than battle protection. By the early seventeenth century it was increasingly common for men to proclaim their military professions by combining pieces of armour or weaponry with civilian clothing. Sometimes this might just be aspirational as gorgets, spurs, swords, and daggers took on the role of dress accessories.

Physical description

Embossed iron collar of front and back plates with remains of canvas lining and brass rivets. The front plate shows a mounted officer controlling a rearing horse. In his right hand he carries a military baton as he addresses a troop of pikemen. Behind him are three other horsemen, one talking to a foot soldier and pointing in the direction of a town in a rocky landscape. On the backplate a battle is in full swing. The cavalry officer thrusts downwards towards the body of his opponent with a stiff, broad-bladed sword.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

1600-1625 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Iron, embossed, chiselled and engraved

Object history note

The early history of this armoured collar is unclear although it is likely it came from the French Royal Armouries. During the nineteenth century it was in the Cabinet d'Armes of the Emperor Napoleon III at the Chateau Pierrefonds, at Pierrefonds, the castle extensively rebuilt by Viollet-le-Duc. Inventories of 1865 and 1867 annotate it with the letters 'M.L.' for Musée de Louvre and before that it was probably in the old French Royal Armoury.

This gorget is an item of costume armour rather than battle protection. By the early seventeenth century it was increasingly common for men to proclaim their military professions by combining pieces of armour or weaponry with civilian clothing. Sometimes this might just be aspirational as gorgets, spurs, swords, and daggers took on the role of dress accessories.

Both front and back plate are decorated with military scenes that suggest the gorget was for a cavalry leader. The front shows a mounted officer controlling a rearing horse. In his right hand he carries a military baton as he addresses a troop of pikemen. Behind him are three other horsemen, one talking to a foot soldier and pointing in the direction of a town in a rocky landscape. On the backplate the battle is in full swing. The cavalry officer thrusts downwards towards the body of his opponent with a stiff, broad-bladed sword. The positioning on the front and back plate is entirely appropriate. A cavalry officer faced his troops to organise and motivate them but they followed him into action.

Historical significance: Napoleon's inventory of 1865 shows why the gorget has survived describing it as 'remarkable French work'.

Historical context note

The scenes also show the soldiers in classical armour. Military strategy was as much influenced by classicism as architecture and sculpture. While men did not go into battle dressed like Caesars the seventeenth-century use of large numbers of foot soldiers arranged in grids and governed as much by geometry and proportion was a conscious revival of ancient Roman methods.

The decoration on the gorget is embossed, chased and engraved to give it a strong three-dimensionality. Embossing involves hammering the metal from behind into areas of high and low relief using shaped punches while chasing uses a fine tool called a burin to work intricate details from the front. These techniques are more commonly the preserve of the goldsmith and brazier than the armourer as the stretching, thinning and removal of the metal interferes with its structural integrity. For parade armours this is less of an issue.

Descriptive line

Gorget (armoured collar) with front and back plate of embossed iron decorated with battle scenes, Paris (probably) 1600-25

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Patterson, Angus, "Power and Glory", Chapter, Medlam, Sarah, and Miller, Lesley Ellis, Princely Treasures: European Masterpieces 1600-1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum, V&A Publishing, London, 2011, pp. 48-49

Materials

Iron

Techniques

Embossing; Chiselling; Engraving (incising)

Subjects depicted

Horse

Categories

Arms & Armour; Metalwork; Fashion; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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