Inner Pommel Plate

Italian (Milan or Brescia)

Not on view

The dates assigned to armor, whether complete armor or individual pieces, are usually estimates based on assessments of style and typology. Occasionally, the precise date of a specific armor may be known through a surviving document recording its commission or by a connection to a particular historical event. A relatively small number of armors, however, actually have dates on them, usually worked somewhere into the decoration. These securely dated examples serve as important benchmarks for understanding the development of armor styles, in terms of both form and decoration. This plate, which would have been attached to the inner face of the top of the saddle pommel, is a good example of how a seemingly minor piece can be used in establishing the dating paramenters for a particular type of decoration.

The significance of this pommel plate lies in the fact that it appears to be the earliest precisely dated example of the use of trophies in the etched decoration on armor. The date, 1546, can be seen near the top of the right page of a stylized book located on the left half of the plate. The handling of the motifs has a spontaneity and clarity often lacking in later examples (see, for instance, acc. nos. 14.25.1666, 04.3.252) and suggests the earlier phases of a decorative style, before standardization has set in. The most notable features distinguishing the trophies here from more typical later forms are that the individual motifs, while still overlapping, are bold and distinct and that they are arranged asymmetrically rather than being laid out mirrorwise in pairs, which subsequently became standard.

Armors with this form of trophy decoration are usually dated to the 1550s and 1560s. One of the best examples is the complete horse armor from the Collalto Castle armory, Treviso, now in the Metropolitan Museum (acc. nos. 21.139.2a–h, .9, .10). The existence of this pommel plate, however, shows that the decorative style found on the Collalto armor was fully developed by the mid-1540s.

Inner Pommel Plate, Steel, Italian (Milan or Brescia)

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Inner pommel plate of a saddle, overall view