Cuirassier Armor

Date: ca. 1610–30

Geography: Milan; Brescia, Lombardy

Culture: Italian, Milan or Brescia

Medium: Steel, gold, leather, textile

Dimensions: H. as mounted 54 in. (137.2 cm); Wt. 86 lb. 8 oz. (39.24 kg)

Classification: Armor for Man

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2002

Accession Number: 2002.130a–p


The construction and build of this armor are typical of a cuirassier's harness, a type developed toward the end of the sixteenth century in response to the increasing use and efficiency of firearms. The advent of firearms caused armorers to increase the thickness and weight of plates and to supplement them with separate reinforcing plates. Before an armor of this type was finished, it was fired at to test its effectiveness against bullets, and the bullet dents were left as a guarantee of the strength and quality of the armor. The Museum's armor retains two reinforces with such dents; a rarely encountered plate for the back of the helmet bowl and a plackard for the breastplate; and formerly possessed a third one for the front of the visor. Weighing more than eighty-six pounds, it is one of the heaviest field armors known. Although generally conforming to the construction of cuirassier harnesses worn in Europe ca. 1600–1640, this example is typical of northern Italian (Milan or Brescia) workmanship. The armor's weight, its reinforcing plates, and the deep "proof marks" provide a vivid reminder of the constant struggle to adapt armor to changes in tactics and weaponry, as well as fashion.