Peter Finer

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A North European Vamplate, c. 1560

Item Ref: 1794 Price on application

1794 8
1794 9
1794 5

Northern Europe. Steel, brass, gold and leather.


Collection of Jean-Baptiste-Antoine-Marcelin, Baron de Marbot (1782–1854)

Vamplates first appeared on lances in the early fourteenth century, when a circular plate of metal was placed immediately above the hanste, or grip to protect the hand and arm from an enemy’s strike. Subtle differences distinguish vamplates designed for war from those for tournament: as may be seen in Botticelli’s painting Venus and Mars, the former were initially flat, whilst the later became larger and more conical in shape to better defend a competing knight.

Our vamplate, probably made for tournament, retains all of its original blued finish; the piece belonged in the nineteenth century to General Baron de Marbot (1782–1854), a soldier and author in Napoleonic France. A colonel of the Belgian light cavalry, Napoleon himself promoted Marbot to general on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. He wrote two books on the French army after Napoleon’s exile; General Bertrand, with the emperor on St Helena, recorded in his journal: 

In the evening, the Emperor handed me Marbot's book… and said: ‘That is the best book I have read for four years. It is the one that has given me the greatest amount of pleasure. 

Napoleon was so gratified in fact that his will included:

To Colonel Marbot … I urge him to continue writing for the defence of the glory of the French armies and to confound their detractors and apostates. One hundred thousand francs.

Marbot’s real fame, however, stems from his memoirs, written for his children and published posthumously in 1891. Mémoires du général baron de Marbot, widely read in France, was translated into English the following year such was its popularity.

Of characteristic convex form, a row of brass-headed rivets around the centre and with a further row of brass-headed rivets around the perimeter within a single line and gilt-cut roped border at the outer rim. Retaining some original leather to the rear and an old collection label.

Size: Diam 28 cm / 11 in, Diam of hole 5.7 cm / 2.25 in