Sunday, August 20, 2006

Armor Pitfalls: the ca. 1400 Italian Harness in the Met

This one.

Beautiful, isn't it? There are so few harnesses surviving from the period that it's important to know that this one was Frankensteined together by Bashford Dean in the 1920s from bits and pieces of several different harnesses, and not all the bits ended up in their original position or shape. The velvet covering, in spite of its worn appearance, is modern.

Imagine him working away in an underground lab, retorts bubbling and sparks climbing the Jacob's Ladder.

"But Mathter, won't future armor hithtorians want that backplate preserved in itth original form?"

"Silence, Igor. Sacrifices must be made. Hand me those shears. Am I not the preeminent armor historian-icthyologist in the world?"

(pause). "But Mathter. You're the only...."

"Enough insolence! Give me the Whitney-Roper punch! And that file! Bwahahaha!"

In particular, the body armor below the waist is reconstructed in a way that gives very little freedom of motion, unlike real armor.

I can understand why the Met has left it as is. It does convey a good general impression of the harness of the period, and if they took it down to the few unaltered bits according to current standards of conservation that would be lost.

But the details are a snare for the unwary. You have been warned.

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