Made in the Royal Workshops
Steel, etched and gilded overall; H. 73 in. (185.5 cm)
Purchase, William H. Riggs Gift and Rogers Fund, 1919 (19.131.1,2)
This armor is the earliest dated example from the Royal Workshops at Greenwich, which were established in 1514 by Henry VIII (r. 150947) to produce armors for himself and his court. It is also the earliest surviving Greenwich garniture, an armor made with a series of exchange and reinforcing pieces by which it could be adapted for use in battle and in different forms of the tournament. Furthermore, the overall etching and gilding distinguish it as the most richly decorated of all Greenwich armors. The design of the decoration is attributed to the Swiss artist Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/981543), who worked at the English court from 1526 to 1528.
The surviving exchange elements of this armor are the reinforcing breastplate with lance rest for use in the field or in jousts (mounted tournaments with lances); a reinforcing gauntlet for the left hand, or manifer, also used in the tournament with lances; and a right-hand locking gauntlet for the mounted tournament with swords.
A highly unusual and innovative feature is the ventral plate, which was worn strapped to the chest beneath the breastplate in order to lessen the weight supported from the shoulders. A ventral plate is found on only one other armor, made in Greenwich in 1540 for Henry VIII.
This armor is believed to have been made by order of Henry VIII, either for his own use or for presentation to the French ambassador François de La Tour d'Auvergne, viscount of Turenne, who led a diplomatic mission to London in 1527. After the viscount's death in 1532, the armor presumably passed to his friend Galiot de Genouilhac, grand master of artillery and grand ecuyer (master of the horse) of France, from whose descendants it came to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.