The English courtier who once wore this armor, produced at the royal armory in Greenwich, must have been very conscious of his appearance, whether in battle or at a sporting event. For this reason, he would surely approve of his armor’s new home in Gallery 236, in which selected highlights from the museum’s beloved collection of arms and armor will again be on view starting November 1. In addition to over 30 wonderful works of armor (such as the Greenwich half suit), this installation will feature paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and—for the first time in the museums’s history—a knight mounted on a horse.
Putting together a display of such diverse material is truly a team effort, with a great deal of behind-the-scenes work on the part of many people at the museum: carpenters, conservators, curators, editors, graphic designers, installation crew, mount-makers, painters, photographers, registrars, security, and others. Here, you can see for yourself some of the labor that has gone into the preparation of this gallery.
Below is a portion of the Greenwich armor pictured above being carefully positioned on its new pedestal. The mount armature that is exposed on both sides will hold the half suit’s sleeves in place.
Some of the most extensive preparation has gone into preparing the mounted knight. The ceiling of the gallery that previously housed the arms and armor collection was too low to accommodate a rider on a horse, so the horse mannequin had been in storage for decades. As a result, the mannequin required conservation work and several coats of paint (below).
Once that work was complete, the mannequin was set on a new pedestal in the gallery space, and the work of securing the saddle and the knight could begin. (This image provides a great sneak peek of the space as it appeared during installation.)
Currently, the armor for the knight is being secured to the horse (below). This extremely complicated task is done in stages, as you can clearly see here.
Come see the fruits of all this labor on November 1, when "The Return of Arms and Armor" opens at the Art Institute.
Image credit: Attributed to Jacob Halder, Portions of Armor for Field and Tilt, 1580/90. The Art Institute of Chicago: George F. Harding Collection.