Item ref: 4206
Private collection, Europe
Armours worn by fast-moving light cavalry, such as this example, formed the final development in conventional plate armour used by troops deployed in field combat. Within the east European and Balkan lands the requirement for armoured cavalry remained strong, continuing for a significant period after the widespread use of firearms had rendered armour redundant in western warfare. In the east the threat of Ottoman incursion was still present within the latter decades of the 17th century, the great Ottoman Siege of Vienna having taken place as recently as 1683, and extended into the 18th century also.
The present armour has no provision for leg defences, these by this period being considered un-necessary. The sombre blackened light-gauge steel is relieved by the numerous domed rivets in the white, used for securing the articulations, for lining-straps and for decoration. Similarly, the distinctly impractical massive finial to the nasal-bar on the helmet provides a brave flourish, its pierced and lightly chiselled floral style more frequently encountered in this period used in the decoration of facing plates covering the lock mechanisms inside the lids of iron chests.
The lightly chiselled white oval on the median line of the breastplate follows the earlier Christian talismanic tradition found on breastplates, most usually in Italy and Germany, some 150-200 years earlier. Whereas these earlier talismans commonly represented Christ or the Blessed Virgin, in the present instance the figure is Saint Margret of Antioch, also known as Margret the Virgin. She was an icon of the Christian Eastern Orthodox Church, venerated as distantly as Greece, where she is referred to as Saint Marina.