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Parade shield
  • Parade shield
    Sigman, Jörg, born 1527 - died 1601
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Parade shield

  • Place of origin:

    Augsburg (made)

  • Date:

    1552 (dated)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sigman, Jörg, born 1527 - died 1601 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embossed steel, wax

  • Museum number:

    3660-1855

  • Gallery location:

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

This shield is a work of art, made for display rather than battle. During the 16th century armour was not only used in war and tournaments but was worn for parades, royal entries into towns and other state occasions to denote the wealth, status and majesty of noble households. The shield is richly decorated with scenes from the history of Rome and from its central boss gazes a high relief Medusa's head. This recalls the legend of Perseus killing the fearsome monster, Medusa, whose gaze had turned her enemies to stone. Perseus presented Medusa's head to Athena, Goddess of War, who fixed it to her shield so that it faced her enemies.

Jörg Sigman (ca. 1527-1601) was the best known German goldsmith to decorate armour. He was first employed by the celebrated armourer Desiderius Colman Helmschmid to help emboss an armour for Prince Philip, later Philip II of Spain, suggesting an unusual talent and reputation at such a young age. The employment of goldsmiths to decorate armour became increasingly common during the second half of the 16th century as the increased use of firearms redirected armourers towards producing stronger body protection covering only the vital parts: head and torso. Parade armour became more decorative and less functional: this shield's strength as a work of art is its weakness as a piece of armour.

The shield may have been made for a Rustkammer or treasury of armour. Such treasuries were set up in the 16th century by princes as displays of wealth and learning and were the forerunners of museums. Famous examples are at the Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck and the Real Armeria in Madrid, built by Philip II in 1565 as a tribute to his warrior father, the Emperor Charles V.

Physical description

Embossed iron, the ornament arranged in two concentric circles, centring on a Medusa's head in high relief. The inner circle is decorated with seven crowns and wreaths, each composed of a different kind of foliage awarded for military valour or civic service by the city of Rome: CIVICA, TRVMPALIS; OVALIS; MVRALIS; OBSIDIONALIS; NAVALIS; VALLARIS. The outer border consists of a continuous frieze of figures symbolic of the foundation of Rome and its victorious hIstory with titles: ROMAE AETERNAE; MARTI VICTORI; VIRTVSAVG; PAX PERPETVA; HONOS; IOVI VLTORI. Many of the figures have been derived from Enea Vico's 'Le imagini...degl'Imperatori tratte delle Medaglie', published in Rome in 1548. It is signed and dated 'Georgius Sigman Aurifex Auguste Hoc Opus Perfecit Anno Domini MDLII Mense August Die XXVII'. Back of shield is partly coated with beeswax mixed with iron oxides giving it a reddish colour. A wooden supporting frame has also been attached at the back.

Place of Origin

Augsburg (made)

Date

1552 (dated)

Artist/maker

Sigman, Jörg, born 1527 - died 1601 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Embossed steel, wax

Marks and inscriptions

"GEORGIVS. SICMAN. AVRIFEX. AVGVSTE. HOC. OPUS. PERFECIT. ANNO. DOMINI. M.D.LII. MENSE AVGVST. DIE. XXVII"
"Jörg Sigman, goldsmith of Augsburg, completed this work on 27th August 1552."
Signed on rim around central boss.

Dimensions

Depth: 10 cm, Diameter: 61.2 cm, Weight: 4.2 kg

Object history note

The shield was sold from the collection of Hofrat J.M von Birckenstock of Vienna in 1811. It was subsequently in the collection of Count Vicsay of Hungary. The shield was later bought by the Museum's first curator, J.C. Robinson in 1855 for £250 from the Hungarian antiquary Gabriel Fejervary (1780-1851). The history of the shield before its sale from the Birckenstock collection is unknown.

This shield may be seen as one of those objects which heralded a change in direction in the Museum's collecting activities after the appointment of John Charles Robinson as Curator in 1853. Robinson was a prolific collector and persuaded the Museum's first director, Henry Cole, that historic works of art were as instructive to students as 'modern manufactures'. Under Robinson's guidance, some of the earliest purchases by the Museum included outstanding examples of European armour collected as works of art.

Historical significance: Jörg Sigman (ca. 1527-1601) was the best known German goldsmith to decorate armour. He went to work in Augsburg in 1548 as a journeyman goldsmith (geselle) and became a citizen of the city in 1550 by marriage. He was first employed by the celebrated armourer Desiderius Colman Helmschmid to help decorate an armour for Prince Philip, later Philip II of Spain, suggesting an unusual talent and reputation at such a young age. This shield bears similarities with the Philip II armour and may also have been made under the wing of Helmschmid.

Hayward suggests (see European Armour, London 1965, cat. 11) that the shield may be unfinished. The edges have not been turned over and reinforced with iron wire as was common at the time (particularly had Helmschmid been involved) and no lining holes exist. Sigman may also have intended to partly gild and damascene the shield as with the Philip II armour.

Sigman had difficulties with the Augsburg goldsmiths' guild over his excursions into the armourer's trade. The guild would not consider his two years between 1549-1550 working on the Philip II armour as counting towards his four year apprenticeship until Philip himself intervened. Sigman probably also collaborated with another famous Augsburg armourer, Anton Peffenhauser, who produced an embossed armour for the King of Portugal.

The employment of goldsmiths to decorate armour became increasingly common during the second half of the 16th century as the increased use of firearms redirected armourers towards producing stronger body protection covering only the vital parts: head and torso. Parade armour became more decorative and less functional: the embossing on this piece has stretched the steel so much that in places it has become flimsy or has split and been filled, a standard practice for goldsmiths. This shield's strength as a work of art is its weakness as a piece of armour.

It is possible therefore that the shield was intended for a Rustkammer or treasury of armour. Such treasuries were set up in the 16th century by princes as displays of wealth and learning and were the forerunners of museums. Famous examples are at the Schloss Ambras in Innsbruck and the Real Armeria in Madrid, built by Philip in 1565 as a tribute to his warrior father, the Emperor Charles V.

Historical context note

This shield is a work of art, made for display rather than battle. During the 16th century armour was not only used in war and tournaments but was worn for parades, royal entries into towns and other state occasions to denote the wealth, status and majesty of noble households.

The shield is richly decorated with Mannerist ornament including scenes from the history of Rome and from its central boss gazes a high relief Medusa's head. The seven Roman crowns and wreaths depicted are a selection of the garlands that were awarded to Romans for triumphs and ovations, which honoured military valour and achievement, civic service, or were worn as symbols of high civic office. The seven Roman crowns and wreaths depicted on The Sigman Shield are: CIVICA: The Corona Civica was a garland made of oak leaves conferred on public figures who had been of great civic service to Rome; TRVMPHALIS: The Corona Triumphalis was a garland made of laurel or bay leaves and was the highest of triumphal military awards; OVALIS: The Corona Ovalis was a garland made of myrtle, and was an ovation conferred on military generals; MVRALIS: The Corona Muralis was a garland of leaves decorated with walled-turrets, which was conferred on the first soldier to scale the wall of a besieged city; OBSIDIONALIS: The Corona Obsidionalis was a garland made of grass and wild flowers picked at the site of a siege and was the highest honour conferred on generals who broke the siege; NAVALIS: The Corona Navalis was conferred on an admiral or captain who led a great naval victory, and also on the first sailor to board an enemy ship; VALLARIS: The Corona Vallaris was a garland decorated with palisades, which was conferred upon the first soldier to penetrate an enemy encampment.

Mannerism was a courtly style based around the idea of difficultà: complex design, virtuoso craftsmanship and decoration infused with intellectual references. The sources of Sigman's designs and figures are varied. Most of the figures represented are found in Eneo Vico's work on Roman coins and medals published in 1548: Le Imagini ... degl' Imperatori tratte delle Medaglie. Konrad Peutinger of Augsburg has a famous coin collection which may also have inspired some of the designs. Prints by the Augsburg Hopfer family may have been used for the trophies of armour.

The Medusa's head is an iconic feature of Renaissance armour of the 16th century. It recalls the legend of Perseus killing the fearsome monster, Medusa, whose gaze had turned her enemies to stone. Perseus presented Medusa's head to Athena, Goddess of War, who fixed it to her shield so that it faced her enemies.

The shield was embossed rather than cast. The designs were traced on the surface and then worked using a variety of hammers and punches from the reverse. 'Chasing' or pressing the metal using a fine tool completed the complicated detail on the front. German armour decorated with high relief figural ornament is relatively rare: this form of art was much more an Italian speciality. Most which does survive is attributed to Augsburg armourers.

Descriptive line

Shield, embossed iron, decorated with a Medusa's head and scenes from the history of Rome, signed by Jörg Sigman, Augsburg, dated 1552

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

Hayward, J. F., European Armour, London, 1965, cat. 11
Hayward, J. F., 'The Sigman Shield', Journal of the Arms and Armour Society, London, Vol.II, 1956-58, pp.21-42.
Robinson, J.C., The Treasury of Ornamental Art, London, 1857, No. 71
Rosenberg, M., Der Goldschmeidemerkzeichen, 3rd edition, Vol. 1, Frankfurt, 1922, pp. 26-27
Hayward, J.F., Virtuoso Goldsmiths and the Triumph of Mannerism, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1976, pp. 40-41, 323-324, 327
Grancsay, Stephen V., "A Helmet Made for Philip II of Spain", Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s. 13, May 1955, pp. 272-80
Pfaffenbichler, Matthias, Medieval Craftsmen: Armourers, London, 1992, p.42, illus. p.46
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. 94, ill.

Labels and date

Arms and Armour Gallery:

PARADE SHIELD
Embossed iron
Around the edge a frieze in high relief representing the triumphs of Rome. Signed (inscription)
Georg Sigman (born around 1527, died 1601) was employed in the workshop of Desiderius Colman of Augsburg and worked on the decoration of the embossed suit of armour made by Colman for Prince Philip, later Philip II of Spain, now in the Armeria Real in Madrid. Sigman was admitted to the Augsburg goldsmiths' guild in 1552, the year in which the shield was completed. The shield appears to belong to an armour, parts of which are in the Vienna armoury.
GERMAN (Augsburg)
Dated August 27th 1552
3660-1855 [to 2002]

Materials

Iron; Wax

Techniques

Forging; Embossing; Chasing

Subjects depicted

Triumphs

Categories

Arms & Armour; Ceremonial objects; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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