Mars and the Muses: the renaissance Art of Armour

2 October 2024

Digby hall , hound street, sherborne at 3 pm and 7 pm

Armour of King Henry II of France-1547-59

Armour Garniture of George Clifford, 3rd Earl of Cumberland (1558-1605)

Close Helmet by Giovan Paolo Negroli (1540-45)

Duke of Ferrara Alphonso II d’Este (1532-97)

Armour was one of the great Renaissance art-forms, but today it is often overlooked by art historians. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries almost all of the richest, most powerful noblemen in Europe were dedicated patrons of their armourers. Armour was an intensely personal, expressive and decorative art-form, at the same time as it was equipment for fighting. Its essence as art was the creation of a living sculpture, a process which demanded not only fantastic skill in the sculpting of iron and steel, but also mastery of all decorative techniques available to the Renaissance metalworker. The achievements of the virtuoso armourers of the Renaissance were not just about splendour and richness however. They also embodied more complex messages, about status, the social order, and divine power.

Tobias Capwell


Toby is Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection in London and an internationally-acknowledged authority on Medieval and Renaissance weapons. He is the author of numerous books on the subject of arms and armour, including Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection (2011; Apollo Magazine Book of the Year 2012); The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe 1520-1630, ex. cat. (2012); Armour of the English Knight 1400-1450 (2015; Military History Monthly Illustrated Book of the Year 2017); ans most recently Arms and Armour of the Medieval Joust(2018). Toby also appears regularly on television, most recently on A Stitch in Time (2018; BBC4); as presenter and armour advisor on Richard III: The New Evidence (2014; C4), and as the writer and presenter of Metalworks: The Knight’s Tale (2012; BBC4). In 2015 Toby had the unusual honour of serving as one of the two fully armoured horsemen escorting the remains of King Richard III, from the battlefield at Bosworth to their final resting place in Leicester Cathedral.