Armour in the Boppard Panels

Men in armour are a frequent sight in medieval art, including stained glass, and provide an invaluable source of information to those studying arms and armour. Since it is made of steel that rusts or can be recycled or reused, relatively little of the original plate armour remains, and even rarer are the leather straps and pins that held the pieces together. Images of armour found in stained glass, paintings, tombs and brasses, give vital insight into the the details of the armour and the way in which it was worn.

There are three main images of armed men in the Burrell Collection Boppard windows, appearing in the Agony in the Garden, Christ before Pilate and Resurrection panels, as shown below.

Detail from Agony in the Garden
Detail from Agony in the Garden
Detail from Christ before Pilate
Detail from Christ before Pilate
Detail from Resurrection Panel
Detail from Resurrection Panel

At the time the Boppard windows were painted (early 15th century), the two most important areas of fine armour production were Germany and Italy (mainly Milan). It is also an important period in armour design, with the transition into full body armour and plate armour.

The detail from Agony in the Garden shows a man wearing a sallet (a war helmet) and a kind of bevor or aventail. The bevor worn with a sallet, protected the throat and neck and was made of solid plate or lames (overlapping strips of steel held together with leather straps to which they were riveted). Interestingly, in this case it would appear that the chin area is in solid plate, but the throat and neck protection are in mail. This would require the bevor to be held in position by attachment to the sallet with straps. In battle, he would pull the sallet down to protect his face, looking through the two slits in the helmet. A selection of German sallets is shown in the image below  by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, a 19th century French architect and theorist.

German sallets is shown in the image below  by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
German sallets is shown in the image below by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

St. Quirinus, carved on a German oak stall end from the Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century, shown below and on display in the Burrell, is wearing a very similar sallet. This stall end was possibly made by the woodcarver Heinrich Bernts of Kalkar (d.1509).

 

Burrell Collection German oak stall end with St. Quirinus - Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century
Burrell Collection German oak stall end with St. Quirinus – Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century

The man in the detail below from Christ before Pilate is wearing a great bassinet, where the helmet, visor, chin and neck protection are all made of plate steel (replacing the mail aventail).

The rounded visor became popular in Germany, as shown in the detail below from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz.

the detail from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Konrad_Witz_Sabobai_And_Benaiah_(1435)_fragment.jpg
the detail from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Konrad_Witz_Sabobai_And_Benaiah_(1435)_fragment.jpg

The small circular metal shield (or Besague) worn by our Boppard knight detailed below, just beneath his left shoulder, differs from the leaf shaped protection on the right side as he would have carried a lance under his right arm.

Detail from Christ before Pilate
Detail from Christ before Pilate

The soldier on the right in the Resurrection panel detailed below, wears a Kastenburst breastplate, with flat surfaces and a sharp angular design. German armour had a more angular design than the more rounded Italian armour, as can be seen in the fabulous Avant Armour in Glasgow’s collection, made in Milan about 1445.

 

Detail from Resurrection Panel
Detail from Resurrection Panel
Avant Armour made in the Corio Workshop in Milan, Italy around 1445 (Glasgow Museums Collection)
Avant Armour made in the Corio Workshop in Milan, Italy around 1445
(Glasgow Museums Collection)

All our soldiers wear a mail skirt to protect the lower body. The armour of the soldier on the right is richly decorated with gilding.

 

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The Boppard Faces

We need your help! Please take part in the experiment at the bottom of this blog.

There are over 44 faces in the Burrell Collection Boppard panels, and all display a uniformly consistent style of painting, suggesting that all the panels were painted by the same artist. In the context of the stories displayed in the panels it is easy to discern who is who and the baddies from the goodies. But can you do it from the character of the face alone?

We have cut out 44 of the faces (some are in armour so little of their face is visible) and reoriented them to a standard format. Here they are:

Boppard-Faces_001

Boppard-Faces_002

Boppard-Faces_003

We have setup a webpage to allow you to pick out who are the baddies. You can also have a go at identifying the faces representing God (2 images), Jesus (3 images), Mary (3 images) and the devil (1 image). You can then submit your choices so we can analyse the results in the first blog in June.

Please take part as the more results the better! The button will load a page from my own website (Ayrshire Members’ Centre for the National Trust for Scotland – it has nothing to do with the NTS)

FacesButton