Buckler – parade wheel-shaped shield

Master armourer from Milan

Milano, last quarter of the 16th century

Material: Engraved etched iron

Size: 58 cm diameter

review by gherardo turchi

A rare parade wheel-shaped etched shield, manufactured in one of those masters armourers’flourishing workshops working in Northern Italy over the last quarter of the sixteenth century.

Over the sixteenth century, the main original dictates regarding wartime taste changed considerably, due to the relevant changes in the military and social environment regarding European high aristocratic classes. The war was no more a hard consequence of the human mind, from which people’s eyes had to be taken away;  it became a tangible reality, since from the fifteenth century on, all territorial conquering was conducted just in front of the reigns gates.  The battles then were taking place no more in far distant fields hidden to the public eye and all social classes had to be accustomed to and be aware of that. Being a warrior was thus a benefit to men’s pride to show in public.

At the very beginning of the sixteenth century,  European masters armourers became aware of this change and started working more and more on defensive decorations outfits, the so-called “parade-made”, those arm suits that were rarely used in battles due their high cost, but were often worn in public events by aristocrats and military high officers.

The defensive outfit thus became a new and wide field in which engravers, goldsmiths and embossers could work and refine their art, putting together Hephaestus’ art and the nobler jeweller’s craft.

Defensive outfits and armour suits production in Milan aroused a great deal of interest in Europe and was particularly appreciated by the old continent sovereigns due to its wealth of details and the refinement with which those works were being made. The majority of masters armourers got together in one street of Milan, still today called Via Degli Spadari, into which workshops like those of Missaglia, Negroli and Piccinino families set up their long-standing luck.

This parade-wheel shield was surely part of a bigger defensive outfit, including the complete armour suit, and made in forged iron the front of which is divided into ten pointed bands.  Five of them are smaller and decorated with arms trophies and knights at the bottom, while the other five have medallions decorations representing the four cardinal virtues: temperance, strength, justice and carefulness. In the fifth one, the theological virtue of hope.

A big festoon, engraved with arms trophies interspersed by grotesque masks and dolphins, frames the ten bands with some typical decorative defensive elements of the sixteenth century. This work has a final frame of an engraved cordon all around it, in a chromatic contrast with the brass rivets supporting the inside leather part, of which only small traces are left today.

The decorated bands converge at the shield center in a point worked with grooves, giving to this shield a sense of power and martial character.

The shield has four forged and crossed iron hubs on its frontal part, which support the shield grip still on its back.

This work is in a very good conservative condition and represents important evidence of the decorative taste and the magnificent art of master armourers in Milan, during the sixteenth century.

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