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Backplate, from a Cuirassier Armor for a Boy

Artist/maker unknown, Italian

Made in Italy, Europe
Possibly made in Rome, Italy, Europe

c. 1605-1610

Embossed, punched, chiseled, and russetted or formerly blued iron alloy (steel) hatched with silver and gold, leather, textile

Height (down the center): 14 15/16 inches (38 cm) Width: 17 5/8 inches (44.7 cm) Depth: 6 5/16 inches (16 cm) Weight: 3.9 lb. (1750g)

Curatorial Department:
European Decorative Arts and Sculpture

* Gallery 348, Arms and Armor, third floor (Kretzschmar von Kienbusch Galleries)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Bequest of Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch, 1977

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This armor was made for a boy of about eight.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This splendid backplate is the only surviving element of a cuirass, an armor designed to protect and ornament the torso. The scale proves that it was made for a youth. The design includes crowns, eagles, and dragons--elements from the coat of arms of the Borghese family of Rome. In 1605 Pope Paul V (Borghese) appointed his soldier-brother Giovanni Battista as commander of the famous papal fortress, the Castel Sant'Angelo; this building is symbolized by the flying angel and castle in the central oval at the top of this backplate. While the identity of the person for whom the armor was intended is uncertain, the backplate remained in the Borghese family until 1892. The style of this piece, characterized by the overall use of a variety of small motifs and much gilding, was popular in Rome around 1600. However, the consummate execution points to the maker as a Milanese armorer, perhaps one of a number of artisans attracted by the possibilities for work in the then rapidly growing Eternal City. Dean Walker, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 131.

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