Object Title

Left leg harness (Cuisse, Poleyn, Greave)

Left leg harness (Cuisse, Poleyn, Greave)



Object Number

II.146 N


From the Norton Hall Collection. Presented by the National Art Collection Fund, 1942. Believed to have come from the Ducal armoury at Lucca.

Physical Description

This armour was made for Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany 1608-21, for foot-combat at the barriers. It comprises of a close helmet, gorget, breastplate and backplate, tassets, leg-harnesses, pauldrons and vambraces. All the main edges of the suit are turned out over wire and are file roped. The whole armour weighs 335.kg (73.6lb). This was heavy for war (field) armour but normal for tournament armour. However it would be even heavier if it still had its extra reinforcing plates for jousting. Grotesque figures of humans, animals and birds can be spotted all over this armour. The etched and gilded decoration is in the Mannerist style, noted for its bizarre, contorted figures. Each leg-harness comprises an integral cuisse, poleyn and three quarter greave. Each poleyn is articulated by two lames above and below and puckered wings, with internal leathers and rivets on the outer side. Each greave as a front-plate and a hinged rear plate. The suit has never possessed sabatons, the feet were protected by boot-stirrups. Each leg-harness is attached around the leg by four straps and buckles, one on the cuisse, one on the poleyn, and two on the greave. A large (modern) leather tab on the upper edge allows the leg-harness to be secured to an arming doublet by points. Close examination of the cuisse reveals the exquisite detail of the rinceau of stylised foliage populated by tiny figures of people, animals and grotesques can be seen in this close-up of the left cuisse. Decoration on the medial keel includes an anthemion with a naked human figure above. On the inner thigh a foliate-avian grotesque can be seen. Decoration: Primary: On medial ridges of the breastplate, and backplate, is the primary ornamentation of etched, symmetrical scrolling foliage intertwined with figures of animals, humans, and mythical figures. Ornamentation runs in gilded and etched bands alternating with plain, bright bands. Secondary: the secondary ornamentation is indicative of the style found over the majority of the suit. This consists of scrolling foliage alternating to the left and right side. This foliage curls off to either side as it progresses, terminating in floral shapes or personified figures, but also having outgrowths from it which continues on in progression. There are also various figures interspersed within the scrolling, being either human, animal or a combination. The secondary ornamentation was originally gilt all over, but most of the raised scrolling has been polished bright. Tertiary: guilloche, which was originally gilt, but most of it has now been polished bright. A gilded band remains almost intact around the edge of the lower bevor, visible only when the visor and upper bevor are raised. Quaternary: The gilded bands throughout are bordered with an engraved and blackened roped or Greek key design with a dog tooth edge.


Places Italy

Bibliographic References

A R Dufty & W Reid, European armour in the Tower of London, 1968: pl. LX, LXI; C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011 volume 2


II.146K and II.146L are gauntlets now associated with this armour, with a different subsequent provenance. Other known elements of this armour are in the Wallace Collection: a close helmet for the tilt A 191, locking gauntlet for the tourney A 278, vamplate A 346; and in the Museo Nazionale (Bargello), Florence: left pauldron M 1427; shield M.766. A second vamplate was in the Laking and later the Lockett Collection. A reinforcing plate is in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Another similar pair of gauntlets, possibly for the same armour, was sold at Christies, London, 20 November 1996, lot 121.