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Some of the finest artists of the medieval and Renaissance periods—painters, draftsmen, and goldsmiths—were engaged in the production and decoration of armor. Daniel Hopfer, who came from a prolific line of portraitists and printmakers in Augsburg, was primarily an armor decorator, although he was also a graphic artist of great renown and was at one time considered the father of the etching process itself. This technique, in which lines are bitten by acid rather than being dug out of metal, as is the case with engraving, produces a free and lively design. Hopfer is even known to have personally etched pieces of armor for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (r. 1519–56). Typical of his inventive designs is An Arabesque link selected work, pictured to the right. For such artists, interest in decorative ornament extended beyond armor to other attire, including embroidered textiles and shoes.

Albrecht Dürer, who first trained with his father, a goldsmith, before becoming a painter and printmaker, produced designs for parade and tournament helmets. The distinctive image of a stechhelm link selected work, a type of helmet used widely in German jousts, takes center place in Dürer’s engraving of a coat of arms with a lion and rooster from around 1503. Hans Burgkmair, the artist responsible for the woodblock portrait of Emperor Maximilian I link selected work, created designs for the etched portions of armor, as did Hans Holbein, the court artist of King Henry VIII of England.


Daniel Hopfer I. An Arabesque, n.d. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Potter Palmer, Jr., 1937.79