This breastplate belongs to an armor made for Francesco Maria II della Rovere (1548–1631), duke of Urbino from 1574. The armor is represented in a portrait of the prince painted by Federico Barocci soon after Francesco Maria returned to Urbino following his participation in the destruction of the Turkish fleet at the battle of Lepanto in October 1571. It is not known if Francesco Maria wore this armor during the battle or if he had it made afterward to celebrate his role in this historic victory.
The heavy weight of the breastplate suggests that it was intended for battlefield use. The Barocci portrait depicts the prince wearing an infantry armor, which includes an open-faced helmet (burgonet) and a shield. However, the breastplate has a turning-pin at the top for the attachment of a reinforcing breastplate fitted for a lance-rest (now in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris). This indicates that the armor was intended for cavalry use as well and originally would have included a close-helmet and leg defenses.
Ex. coll.: Dr. William Meyrick, London; Henry Arthur Brassey, Esq., M.P. of Preston Hall, Kent (who purchased Meyrick's collection from his heirs c. 1880); Leonard Brassey (the latter's son), Apethorpe Hall, Peterborough; Brassey sale, Christie's, London, Feb. 21, 1922, lot 73, illustrated; acquired by B. Dean for William R. Hearst; anoymous sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, NY, Nov. 25, 1953, lot 49; Stephen V. Grancsay, until c. 1969, when sold to Dr. Jerome Zwanger.