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Pair of gauntlets

  • Place of origin:

    Milan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1585 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Piccinino, Lucio

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel, embossed and damascened with gold and silver

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by D. M. Currie

  • Museum number:

    M.143&A-1921

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery, case 19 []

These gauntlets were probably part of an armour presented in 1585 by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy to the King Philip III of Spain, when the Duke married Philip's cousin, Infante Catalina. Of all the possessions of the sixteenth century nobleman, none spoke more powerfully of his honour, wealth and status than his armour.

Gauntlets were the most intricately made components in defensive armour, protecting the hands but at the same time allowing them to grip and flex while wielding weapons or holding a horse's reins. Armours for tournaments and parades were decorated according to the latest fashion and their cost made them the preserve only of the very wealthy. During the mid-16th century a new fashion emerged in Europe for arms and armour based on the forms found in classical art. High relief embossing and rich gold damascening decorated parade armour alla romana antica (in the ancient roman style).

The decoration is in the style of the workshop of Lucio Piccinino (born around 1535, active around 1570-1589) of Milan. Piccinino was an armour embosser and damascener. He had, claimed Paolo Morigia in his La Nobilita' di Milano, published in 1595, β€œin his ornamentation of iron in relief with figures, animals and grotesque masks, etc., and likewise in his damascened work, produced masterpieces which are among the most choice and precious.”

Physical description

Pair of gauntlets for a boy, iron, the cuffs embossed and damascened in gold and silver with two female figures either side of a central medallion depicting warriors, among trophies, scrolls and foliage, the fingers, thumbs and hands decorated with minute arabesques and scrolls. The gauntlets are articulated in great detail (the central fingers for example are made up of 14 separate plates) and rivetted together on a leather backing.

Place of Origin

Milan (made)

Date

ca. 1585 (made)

Artist/maker

Piccinino, Lucio

Materials and Techniques

Steel, embossed and damascened with gold and silver

Object history note

In his catalogue of the Madrid Armoury, the Conde de Valencia suggests that these gauntlets were part of an armour (Inv. No.B1-3) presented by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy to the Infante, later King of Spain, Philip III, on the occasion of the Duke's marriage to Philip's cousin, Infante Catalina, in 1585.

Many armours in the Royal Armoury in Madrid were broken and removed during the early 19th century. The gauntlets were subsequently in the Bernal Sale of 1855 (lot 2246: where they were attributed to a suit belonging to Philip IV) and later in the Londesborough Collection from which they were sold at Christie's on the 4th July 1888 (lot 305). They were later in the collection of Mr David M. Currie who bequeathed them to the Museum in 1921.

Historical significance: The gauntlets are remarkable for the richness and variety of their decoration, something for which the armourers of Milan were renowned. The cuffs and fingers are covered with magnificent chased and damascened (inlaid gold) ornament that includes figures of Fame and Victory. Their association with the Royal Armoury in Madrid, and the possibility that they were part of a suit presented in 1585 to the future Phillip III, put the gauntlets in the top echelons of aristocratic patronage. The Spanish nobility, particularly the royal family were the best customers for the Italian armourers in the later 16th century and the decline of Spain as a force after 1600 seriously impacted on the armourers' markets.

The decoration is in the style of the workshop of Lucio Piccinino (born around 1535, active around 1570-1589), one of the great armourers of Milan. The gauntlets were part of a parade armour, rather than a protective battle suit, and would have created a spectacular display as part of a matching suit of armour.

The manufacture of arms and armour was for centuries Milan's most famous export. The industry in Milan was centred on a few workshops run by families specialising in armour of great beauty and artistic skill for a wealthy, aristocratic market. Along with Missaglia, the Negroli, Giovan Battista Zarabaglia and Pompeo della Cesa, Lucio Piccinino was the most important.

Lucio Piccinino was an armour embosser and damascener. His work represents one of the last last great flourishes of the armourer's art before heavy musket shot put paid to the all-over dress armours. Piccinino had, claimed Paolo Morigia in his La Nobilita' di Milano published in 1595 "in his ornamentation of iron in relief with figures, animals and grotesque masks, etc., and likewise in his damascened work, produced masterpieces which are among the most choice and precious." Piccinino made armour for princes and kings including a parade armour for Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (1545-1592), now in the Kunsthistorischesmuseum in Vienna.

Historical context note

Of all the possessions of the sixteenth century nobleman, none spoke more powerfully of his honour, wealth and status than his armour.

Gauntlets were the most intricately made components in defensive armour, protecting the hands but at the same time allowing them to grip and flex while wielding weapons or holding a horse's reins. Armours for tournaments and parades were decorated according to the latest fashion and their cost made them the preserve only of the very wealthy.

During the mid-16th century a new fashion emerged in Europe for arms and armour based on the forms found in classical art. High relief embossing and rich gold damascening decorated parade armour alla romana antica (in the ancient roman style). Armour was commissioned by Renaissance kings and noblemen who projected their power and status by portraying themselves as figures from classical mythology. This example is a vituoso piece of Renaissance 'antique' armour.

Descriptive line

Pair of gauntlets for a boy, iron embossed and damascened with gold and silver, Milan, ca. 1585

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

Hayward, J. F., European Armour, London, 1965, cat. 31
Valencia, Conde de, Catalogo de la Real Armeria, Madrid, 1898, pp. 121-22
Grancsay, S.V., "Lucio Piccinino, Master Armourer of the Renaissance", Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, April 1964, pp. 519-536
Pyhrr, Stuart W. and Godoy, Jose-A., Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance: Filippo Negroli and his Contemporaries, Exhibition Catalogue, 08 October 1998 - 17 Januray 1999, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, passim.
Patterson, Angus, Fashion and Armour in Renaissance Europe: Proud Lookes and Brave Attire, V&A Publishing, London, 2009, ISBN 9781851775811, p. 82, ill.

Labels and date

Arms and Armour Gallery:

PAIR OF GAUNTLETS
ITALIAN (Milanese); 1585-90
M.143&A-1921
For a boy, part of the arm,our belonging to the Infante Philip(later Philip III) of Spain. Probably presented to him by Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy in 1585.
D.M.Currie Bequest
(Royal Armoury Madrid, Bernal and Londesborough Collections) [To 2002]

Materials

Gold; Silver; Leather; Steel

Techniques

Forging; Embossing; Damascening; Gilding

Categories

Arms & Armour; Ceremonial objects; Children & Childhood; Death; Metalwork; Royalty; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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