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Renaissance Armor

Armor was not always used in combat. Indeed, a number of these suits were made for sports such as jousting and tournaments, and for parades and other civil ceremonies. Armor’s composition and decoration was determined by its purpose. Battle armor was relatively light and flexible, since speed and agility were desired. Jousting and tournament armor tended to be heavier, targeting specific, vulnerable areas of the body. Parade armor was showy and ostentatious, for it projected an image as much as it protected the body. A lavishly decorated parade suit for a royal patron could have taken several years to produce and would have been far more expensive than a painted portrait. Indeed, of all the riches belonging to a Renaissance nobleman, few announced his elevated social position more clearly than his ceremonial armor and decorated weapons. Hans Burgkmair’s woodcut of Emperor Maximilian I vividly portrays armor’s important role in early modern pageantry.


Hans Burgkmair the Elder. Equestrian Portrait of the Emperor Maximilian I, 1508. Kate S. Buckingham Fund, 1961.3