Buckler with “dark” lantern
“It is very useful for the buckler to have a sharp point in the middle, with which you can injure the enemy when the occasion arises.” Giacomo di Grassi, Discourse on the Use of Arms, 1570 p. 61
Circular steel buckler once blackened, nearly flat to body, and drawn out in truncated conical point at center. This is fitted with an old, but associated spike of quadrangular section, with molded base. Spike screws into restored internal mount which is riveted at either end to sides of central cone. Perimeter of shield has slightly angular, outwardly flanged, inwardly turned edge, with thick, iron wire core. Buckler is held by a hollow iron grip, slightly arched for palm, and mounted vertically across recess of the cone, secured via a pair of flat, irregularly round rivets at both ends. Centered at top of buckler, and riveted to the inside by a set of four rivets of later date, is body of so-called "dark" lantern. This seems to be of slightly more recent vintage than the buckler itself, and is probably a working-life addition. The body is of iron, cylindrical, with a circular bottom that is crimped over the basal flange of the body base. Body is riveted together at the left front, & has a large, vertical rectangular aperture for the lamp once held within. The sides and bottom edges of the opening are inwardly flattened to reinforce them. Riveted to the anterior sides are L-shaped, bilobated brackets that extend the full length of the body, and are fastenend by rivets whose flattened heads bear a raised-dot pattern on the inside, but are nearly flush within. Inserted within the body of the lantern is a cylindrical rotating shutter once fitted with a window pane of thin horn (lost). The shutter is constructed like the body, and has two vertical apertures, en suite. One of these has thin narrow iron strips riveted at the sides; these have enough "spring" so as to retain an inserted sheet of thin horn to diffuse the light and provide a wind break. The other opening is similar, but without such provisions. The solid face blocks the light. At the top of the shutter is a truncated conical iron cap, open at the top, and cramped over a flange of the shutter perimeter. Riveted to this is a conical top, embossed to form eight downturned louvres, which when viewed from above, produced a petalled motif. This portion may be an old replacement, or at the least, has more-modern repairs. About one-third up from the bottom of the shutter body is found a small hole each opposite one another; the purpose of these holes are unknown, but could have to do with the internal mounting of the oil lamp. The face of the buckler is cut with a vertical rectangular aperture with rounded corners. This is fitted with a flat, similarly formed hinged cover.
A similar lantern is found mounted on a target in the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds (V. 16), and is dated about 1600. See "Treasures from the Tower of London," and "Armi bianche italiane," nos. 434/435 (in the latter the shield is tentatively ascribed to a Roman workshop). This is a very plain, simple example of a lantern shield. Some, like the Tower example, have the lanterns mounted in elaborately painted targets. Others such as those in Vienna, Paris, and Philadelphia are part of intricate defenses comprising shield, gauntlet, and spikes to stab or ensnare the opponent's blade, and even additional swordblades. The lantern on ours is similar to one found on a sixteenth-century Italian parade shield in the Veste Coburg. Another lantern-buckler, but differently formed, was cat. no. 60, p. 17 in the 1952 Royal Armouries' Brunswick arms and armor exhibition. For a similar lantern (without shield), see Czerny's Auction 25 (March 2009) lot 374.
Claude Blair, and Leonid Tarassuk, "The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons" (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980) (for the use of the spike as a parrying device)
Cf. Dufty 1968 pl. 142 for a painted lantern shield, and another of embossed leather with a hole for a now-missing lantern.
A.V.B. Norman, "Rapier & Small-sword, 1460-1820", (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1980)
A.V.B. Norman and Guy M. Wilson; "Treasures from the Tower of London," (Norwich: Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, 1982), cat. no. 12
James G. Mann, "Arms, Armour and Militaria lent by H.R.H. the Duke of Brunswick." Catalogue of the exhibition at the Tower of London Armouries, 1952-53: cat. no. 60, p. 17 (another type of lantern-buckler).
Publication & Exhibit History
"Grande Vente au Palais des Beaux Arts/Parc du Valentino/Turin," Dir. by M. Le Chevalier G. Sangiorgi of Rome (1-4 June 1899) Galerie Sangiorgi (IX me Année, no. 88), Palais Borghese, Rome, lot 296, plt 8 (listed as "Petite rondache a lanterne, armee de pointe quadrangulaire au milieu/Voir planche N.8. De Cosson collection.") Catalogue of Arms and Armor … of the Right Hon. Cornelia Countess of Craven (1922) Visible on the wall in a photograph of de Cosson's collection, see de Cosson file.