Backplate from a “Stechküriss”

2869.1

This is the only known survival from the first collaborative effort of Helmschmid and Sorg, and appears in the latter’s pattern book, as shown in the reproduction nearby. The armor was built for an unrecorded noble’s use in war, but was also provided with additional elements so it could be used in sporting combats. What might have been the suit appeared in a Swiss auction before World War II, but its present whereabouts are unknown.

Description

Of light steel, well-made & formed. Of three plates, the lower two of which articulate on rivets at the terminals and medial point. Embossed with scalloped decoration separated by sunken etched bands (very worn) on borders, medial area and to either side. Mainplate shaped to the shoulders, with slightly dipped, curved neck & deep arms, all with file-roped turns. Wide, recessed shallow bands here, etched with worn foliation, dolphins, etc., on finely stippled, once-gilt ground. Generally similar bands down medial line & from both arms, framed by embossed scallops, these with etched sprays of blackened foliation. Scalloping edged by recessed band & between each is a question-mark like scrolled projection. Working on rivets below is a pair of laminations over the lower back, continuing the decoration. Terminal lame is flanged for a lost culet. Backplate of elegant form, narrowing to the waist. It consists of a mainplate which is embossed for the shoulder-blades, with a pair of articulated waistlames below. The mainplate is beaten up just over the tops of the shoulders which have extensive modern patch repairs. The opening for the neck is slightly depressed, and like the deep cutouts for the arms, has an inwardly turned, well roped edge. The basal edge of the mainplate is plain and straight, and overlaps the topmost of a pair of deep waistlames which themselves overlap downward. These lames are of more or less equal depth from the nearly vertical sides, rising only slightly at the medial line and near the sides where the plates are riveted together with domed brass mounts. The central set work in vertical slots, and have rough-cut octagonal sheet metal washers; those at the sides have hollow-domed iron ones. The basal lame is drawn out below in a narrow, downturned flange that is bluntly pointed on its basal edge near either side, where there are rivets filling the holes for the lost culet. Above these holes, just above the waistline, either side has two transversely-aligned, rivet-filled holes for the mounts of the waist-straps. Bordering the neck and arms are simple, broad shallow recessed bands, which though badly rubbed, are etched with running foliation having globose swelling and terminated in dolphined or cornucopiaed terminals, on a finely stippled ground once gilded. The band at the neck also features some military trophies, such as a close helmet with fluted onion-shaped skull, placed at mid-length. This helmet is reminiscent of the types for the foot tourney, shown in the Thunsch Skizzenbuch (see Gamber, 'Der Turnierharnisch zur Zeit Koenig Maximilain I. und das Thunsches Skizzenbuch, Jahrbuch 53 (1952), figs 40 and 41). Extending from these bands to the edge of the basal flange below are wide, tapering recessed bands at the medial line and from either arm. These bands are also badly rubbed, but retain traces of ascendent candelabrum decoration, with urn-shaped swellings and bird-headed terminals, all on a similar ground. All recessed bands are themselves framed by embossed, broad scallops that are delicately etched with a symmetrical strap of blackened foliation, and accented by narrow recessed edging. Projecting from the inverted cusps between the scallops are etched and blackened thin 'question mark'-like volute tendrils, the stems of which are perpendicularly crossed with a number of close-set, thin lines. Neither of the last two motives shows any indication of gilding.

Curator's Comments

Highly important, if poorly preserved element believed to be from the earliest documented work by Desiderius Helmschmied and his nephew, the etcher Jörg T. Sorg the Younger, from 1548. (WJK, 1983) Stuart W. Pyhrr (MMA) states that there are additional pieces in the Museo-Stibbert, Florence. (27 March 1986) As noted in the "Jahrbuch" article ("Musterbuch"), this is believed to be the earliest known work by Helmschmied and Sorg. The closest similar components are an elbow-cop in the von Kienbusch collection at Philadelphia (1977-167-228, former K. 190) and a backplate/cuisse shown in an exhibition at Burg Hornberg in 1981. These differ in the edging, and the décor of the scallops.(WJK) Sorg's pattern-book is now in the library at Stuttgart.

Bibliography

The Bashford Dean Collection, sale catalogue (Parke-bernet Galleries, New York, 26 October 1950) part of lot 60, not ill.
Charlotte Becker, Ortwin Gamber, and Walter Irtenkauf, Das Stuttgarter Harnisch-Musterbuch, 1548-1563 (Vienna: Anton Schroll & Company, 1980), p. 33-35; p. 34 fig. 9 (Photo of 2869.1); pp. 48-49, fol. IV fig. 9.
Cf. decoration to Boccia 1975 #130 (pl. 125).

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