Teen Screens—WARdrobe: When Art Meets War

Discover a suit of armor fit for a king.

Narrator: A powerful defense that people still mimic today. Records of past stories and wars. Armors that give you strength and glory, that leave visitors in awe. But they weren't just used for defensive purposes. They also expressed the owners' artistic and fashion tastes. WARdrobe: When Art Meets War.

More elaborately constructed than regular combat armor, armors based on aesthetics feature fashion trends, symbolic decorations, and skilled craftsmanship. What are the significance of certain symbols? How did fashion influence the armor's design? How is art incorporated into war armor?

Before armors collected dust, they collected stories, and were in fact the stuff of legend. Hailed as two of history's most exquisite armors, the armors of Emperor Ferdinand I and the Earl of Cumberland featured great stories within their adorned etchings. Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand was a warrior, a Christian, a leader. These were the elements that forged this armor by Kunz Lochner. Ferdinand was a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a fierce band of warriors for Catholicism. On the front chest plate, Mary and Child are etched eternally, showing his devotion to his almighty God. The reverse side shows crossed staves and firesteels, which is the symbol of the Order. His leadership and legacy is shown on his toe. A double-headed eagle adorned with a crown symbolizes his power as Holy Roman emperor. Kunz Lochner sculptured the armor to match male fashion of the sixteenth century with the stylized codpiece. The armor matches the legacy of the emperor himself, becoming one of the best sixteenth-century armors around.

The Cumberland armor was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I when George Clifford became her champion. Clifford's connection to the Queen is demonstrated by three symbols etched on his armor: the five-petal Tudor rose is an emblem of the English royal family, the fleur-de-lis is another mark of English royalty that represents the English claim to certain French territories, and the back-to-back double Es are the initials of the Queen. As a whole, the armor was designed to fit Clifford's body precisely and emulate the fashionable doublet. Hailed as one of the most magnificently constructed armors in the world, the armor of George Clifford still retains some of its vibrant blue ink and is described as possessing a poise that gives it an instant appeal.

Sadly, armor making is a dying art. Guns have forced plate armor into retirement, and the art form has largely disappeared. Now, very few can still etch the meticulous designs and emboss the elaborate figures like those of the Clifford and Ferdinand suits. But The Metropolitan Museum of Art secures the best examples of this historic craft, providing a place where visitors can still admire the peculiar marriage of art and war.

Directed, shot, and edited by Karen Liu, Luke Sawyer, and Jasmine Veridiano as part of the 2010 Art and Film summer workshop for teens at the Museum.

This film was a collaboration between The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Film Academy.