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Old 17th May 2019, 03:57 PM   #1
fernando
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Default A cuirasse breastplate ... for review

This breastplate was discussed here quite a few years ago, so i won't bother you with exhaustive details.
My question now, one that intrigues me since i have acquired it and compared to others out there, it is more on the side of its dimensions. Being undoubtedly a genuine piece, i wonder how such a small (in height) device can fit the chest of an adult, whatever armor version it falls into. Could it be for an infant ? i doubt, as its weight (4 1/2 Kilos) and all consistence has more to do with a grown up.
I have tried to take some (non technical) measurements, hoping that some of you guys are familiar with these things and tell me whether this is a normally sized unit to fit whatever armor type of adult soldier.
All measures were taken straight, except for the chest and waist, that were taken following the curvature
Thank you in advance.

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Old 18th May 2019, 03:19 AM   #2
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It is typical for them to seem "too small". Remember people were smaller back then. There would also be a gorget that would cover some of the upper chest.

I have a reinforcement breast plate that measures 39cm top to bottom.
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Old 18th May 2019, 09:22 AM   #3
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Thanks much for your input.
Yes, i guess your'e right; even though 3 cm. in height make it a (proportionally) significant difference.
Possibly my guy was a shorty, even for the period .
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Old 18th May 2019, 11:09 PM   #4
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Most interesting! I actually have heard of arms and armor for boys, but had no idea of armor for an infant. But then who knows?
The measurements on this cuirass seem remarkably small, even for the smaller size of men in medieval times. Even the notion of dwarves, which certainly existed leads to the idea of appropriately sized armor, but the anomaly of such a piece is notable.

What I wonder is if armorers of the times made display examples to show prospective clients, and to exhibit their skills. It does seem that such items were made of arms and armor both as novelties and to impress.

As mentioned, diminutive size of men in those times was not uncommon, and also, the upper part of the chest was often covered by the 'bevor' which comprised a cover for the lower face and upper chest. The helmet was worn over this component, at least this is what I have understood from what I could find.

Still it is hard to imagine a guy with an 18" chest.
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Old 19th May 2019, 10:01 AM   #5
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The breastplate seems too small for a man. It should be around 50cm in height. Are there any items for fastening or attachment for wearing the breastplate?Typically there would be slits in the steel for straps, or hinges on the side for the backplate in the case of cuirass, etc.

In military families children would wear arms (and armour) to prepare them for adulthood. Another possibility (although questionable) would be breastplate for a dwarf?

Final possibility is that this is a decorative item perhaps part of a miniature suit of armour. The many dents seem to indicate that the breastplate has been worn in practice however.
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Old 19th May 2019, 03:14 PM   #6
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It seems a remote possibility that an armor for a dwarf could be possible, but it would seem such a novelty that it would seem duly noted and kept as such.

Could it be that as a model or exemplar of an armorers craft, the quality of the steel might be tested or shown to receive blows in the same manner as full size armor?

By striking the display with a hammer (or other tool or blunt object) the quality of the steel used by the armorer would illustrate its strength.
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Old 19th May 2019, 11:46 PM   #7
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Smaller worn items tend to survive because larger people cannot use the item. Armour, cloth uniforms, belts etc. all the small ones tend to survive because they cannot be reused as larger pieces can be used and therefore damaged/worn out. It is a myth that people were all smaller then.
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Old 20th May 2019, 01:09 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M
Smaller worn items tend to survive because larger people cannot use the item. Armour, cloth uniforms, belts etc. all the small ones tend to survive because they cannot be reused as larger pieces can be used and therefore damaged/worn out. It is a myth that people were all smaller then.



Thanks for responding Will !
That is a most reasonable observation, and such items would obviously have less chance of being worn 'universally' (uh, my uniforms from a 'few' years back not even close to being able to be worn again).

But as you note, people were not all small in those days...…...but this piece, and others seem awfully small.....also, where are the attachment slits or means as Victrix has mentioned?

On an aside, it seems that they found armor some years ago which they believed had belonged to Joan of Arc, and is was if I recall, smaller than typically male armor. I don't think it was ever proven though.
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Old 20th May 2019, 03:58 PM   #9
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Gentlemen, i am spoiled with so much attention to my case, for which i am much obliged.
But having read all your notes my concerns, instead of being quietened, found no peace,which took me to "undo my cuff links" an make some little search for myself.
If we (re) reconsider CSinTX's example, only 3 cms. taller than mine. I hear some knowledged people saying that (even) a 5 cms difference is not such great a variation and still can be attributed to the realm of adults, whether those of lesser stature. Breast plates must accomodate human physiology. They can only reach down to about the lowest rib and bend at the waist, in order not to interfere with the possibility to fully bend, as in contemplating a context of episodes like falling from a horse.
Also we must not forget that most often these implements are only a part of front armor, having complements added to their lower section, like faulds and tassets. One example of "small" breastplate may be seen at the HIGGINS. Also note that its neck is not so "low cut" as in mine, so height measurements should take that into account.
Having so said, i would dare to discard the dwarf hypothesis, those who would not feel so comfortable wearing a 4 1/2 kilos (10 pounds) breastplate to add to their entire cuirass.
Concerning the approach that people were all smaller then is a myth, i am afraid that such is not the concept of documented history. We can (or not) aknowledge records in that men, in the last century, following a research over 18 million people in 200 Countries, have increased their height in 10-12 cms ... in a variable manner, of course.
Also noteworthy that man stature complexity is primarily linked with economic, nourishment, genetic and other so reasons. The principle that would explain why wealthy and better fed people are taller or better constituted than those close to poverty, would cause no surprise to spot an armored aristocrat knight outstanding among a platoon of armored pikemen. Another deal is Gravettians (Mamuth hunters) having been much taller than Mayas ... But that is digressing
Also we can read (and see) charts of man evolution of stature in much earlier times, drawn by prestigious scholars.
Also the probability that my example is a salesman display seems unlikely. You either exhibit a "miniature" or the "real size" thing; not an "approximate" one. Besides, this example has been much through a rather severe endurance to be a selling exhibit.

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Old 20th May 2019, 06:10 PM   #10
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Default Interesting ...

Here is a chart on Brits height evolution ... and involution; to note how tall they were in the period when theses armor implements were used.


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Old 20th May 2019, 06:57 PM   #11
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Thank you so much for the elucidation (as always) and for breaking your original notice of not bothering us with exhaustive details. I am always glad when you are encouraged to do further research and share it here with us.
As one not particularly well versed in armor, it is good to have these pertinent (not exhaustive) details applied, and providing much better perspective.

While some of the hypothetical suggestions seem of course, somewhat out of place (i.e. dwarves), it is sometimes just broadening discussion to even remote possibilities for the sake of note. I would point out here that my mention of smaller display item was in concurrence with Victrix' note on miniature harness (=armor) as a possibility. The notion of 'damage' as well as apparent 'mounting' apertures may also lend to this idea as positioning such a piece to receive blows (much as in proving armor) does not seem far fetched.
I agree with the comment on the elements of armor being comprised of components that would better adjust to the wearers 'physique' and moveability. It was mentioned that the bevor (gorget and chin guard) above and tassets below would complete the coverage of the individual with this breast plate central.

I had indeed not seen your recent entries when I mentioned this topic and subject breastplate (avoiding the term cuirass in case of technicality) in the case of an unusually small katar on the ethno forum. I had not realized I had sounded so decisive in my comments which I thought indicated that the possible circumstances shown and discussed remained inconclusive.

As I had been focused on the katar, I simply thought of this discussion and brought it up as an analogy of similar circumstances in weapon size. It was not meant as a conclusive case as evidence of any presentation, and certainly not meant to cause you concern. Mea Culpa.

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Old 20th May 2019, 07:39 PM   #12
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This was written by Dirk Breiding, Department of Arms and Armour, Metropolitan Museum:

“Medical and anthropological research demonstrates that the average height of men and women has gradually increased over the centuries, a process that, for reasons of progressively better diet and public health, has accelerated during the past 150 years or so. The majority of surviving armors from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries appear to confirm these findings.

However, when trying to affirm such generalizations from armor, a number of factors need to be carefully considered. First, is the armor complete and homogeneous (i.e., do all parts belong together), thereby giving an accurate impression of the height of the original wearer? Second, even a high-quality armor, made to measure for a particular owner, can provide only an estimate of its former wearer’s height with a margin of at least an inch or two (2–5 cm), since the overlap of the protections for lower abdomen (skirt and tassets) and thighs (cuisses) can only be approximated.

Indeed, armor comes in all shapes and sizes, such as armor for children or young men (as opposed to that for adults), and there are even armors made for dwarfs and giants (often found at European courts as “curiosities”). Moreover, then as now, other general factors have to be taken into account, such as differences in average body height between northern and southern Europeans for example, or the simple fact that there have always been people who were exceptionally tall or short when compared to their average contemporary.”
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Old 20th May 2019, 08:36 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Victrix
This was written by Dirk Breiding, Department of Arms and Armour, Metropolitan Museum:

“Medical and anthropological research demonstrates that the average height of men and women has gradually increased over the centuries, a process that, for reasons of progressively better diet and public health, has accelerated during the past 150 years or so. The majority of surviving armors from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries appear to confirm these findings.

However, when trying to affirm such generalizations from armor, a number of factors need to be carefully considered. First, is the armor complete and homogeneous (i.e., do all parts belong together), thereby giving an accurate impression of the height of the original wearer? Second, even a high-quality armor, made to measure for a particular owner, can provide only an estimate of its former wearer’s height with a margin of at least an inch or two (2–5 cm), since the overlap of the protections for lower abdomen (skirt and tassets) and thighs (cuisses) can only be approximated.

Indeed, armor comes in all shapes and sizes, such as armor for children or young men (as opposed to that for adults), and there are even armors made for dwarfs and giants (often found at European courts as “curiosities”). Moreover, then as now, other general factors have to be taken into account, such as differences in average body height between northern and southern Europeans for example, or the simple fact that there have always been people who were exceptionally tall or short when compared to their average contemporary.”



Now THIS is a valuable and most pertinent reference!!! Thank you so much Victrix, very, very much appreciated.
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Old 21st May 2019, 07:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Now THIS is a valuable and most pertinent reference!!! Thank you so much Victrix, very, very much appreciated.


Not at all Jim. We all thank you, for sharing with us your wisdom and encyclopedic knowledge in these matters which you acquired through decades of research. This is very valuable to us indeed.

Separately on a different matter, in our inquiry it’s important for us to keep an open mind regarding ALL eventualities. It’s preposterous to think that “small” people would not have worn armour in the old days just because they are small. Curiously it seems that human diversity was much more accepted in the old days (pre 20thC?) and indeed even appreciated and celebrated.
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Old 21st May 2019, 10:54 AM   #15
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Goo points Victrix, those written by Dirk Breiding; and my i say that his words converge here and there with what has been assumed here.
Also indisputable the existence of armour for teenager nobility, as well as a more rare, but still patent, number of oddities for giants and dwarfs.
I would then add that, besides stature dimensions, also resistance must have been part of the smith's different recipes, as a "compassion" for users who only had them for exhibition, parades, ceremonies and such non combat purposes; hence building the parts with a less sturdy consistence (read weight). A piece of armour for a short soldier would certainly weigh more than a "show off" specimen for a an individual of similar size who doesn't have to engage into battle.
The breastplate in discussion has a laminated construction and almost 4 m/m in its thinner parts.
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Old 21st May 2019, 11:30 AM   #16
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An oil paint depicting Charles II of Great Britain, attributed to Van Dyck's school. The little prince in full armour, with a wheel lock pistol in his hand.
He later married Dona Catarina de Bragança of Portugal, the one who introduced to the Brits the habit of drinking tea.
(Collection Rainer Daehnhardt).

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Old 21st May 2019, 01:07 PM   #17
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Thank you Victrix, for your very kind words, but my entries here are simply my efforts to learn along with everyone here, and results of details of research I have completed.
You have brought up most salient points which very much should be the mantra of us all in research...…..ALWAYS keep an open mind, and toward all eventualities as further research and discussion unfolds.

In examining this curiously small breast plate, I have occasionally recalled the situation of some years ago (1996) when a French collector believed he had found the harness of Joan of Arc. It seems the armor was quite small, and he believed that certain damages in the metal had corresponded to wounds she was recorded as having received in battle.
While this armor was I believe largely dismissed by most experts as having been hers, it was duly noted that perhaps it was armor for a youngster because of its size (attached photo ). Though Joan was believed about 5 feet to a few inches more in height, she was believed to have been stockier than the slightly built stature of the person this armor was for.
It is also noted it is 'Gothic' and not of the type she is said to have worn, despite being metallurgically determined it is of 15th c.

Surely armor must have been made in varying gauge of metal as well as bolstered and augmented for key battle expectations, and it seems there are differences in 'parade' or accouterment armor in those respects.
Though notions of armor being so heavy that knights had to be hoisted onto horses etc. are of course nonsense (as has been often recounted) , it makes sense that lighter and less bolstered sets probably existed to suit occasions other than battle.

Despite the images of artwork where artists license often depicted what armor and weaponry might have been used by the figures portrayed, or the same conditions with modern film makers, there was not any real sort of regulation or standardized forms of these in these times and events.
It was mostly a circumstance of means, availability and opportunity as far as what was actually used.

Returning to the breast plate here, in looking more at the sizes (after trying to realize actual measurements in inches rather than cm) it does not seem to be unfeasibly small for actual wear as intended in my view. While the options for conventional methods of attachment seem absent, there are certain indications of possible other means of doing so as has been noted.
Elements of 'harness' were often assembled in varying degree it would seem, in keeping with the circumstantial cases of actual use I have suggested.

Whatever the case here, it seems that this breast plate may well have been viably worn, and may be included in that category of curiosities and anomalies which make these studies so fascinating.
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