Black-and-White Field Armor

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Northern German

Black-and-White Field Armor, c. 1560

Steel with paint and leather
H. 182.9 cm (72 in.)
George F. Harding Collection, 1982.2105a-n

Plate armor alternately decorated with brightly polished (white) and darkened (black) surfaces is commonly referred to as black-and-white armor. Darkened color results from painting the surfaces black; russeting, a chemical process; or bluing, a process that merely leaves the surface dark from repeated heating in the forging process. Darkened surfaces, besides being an effective tool against rust, created a look of luxury when combined with etched and gilded borders. This armor has been embellished with an embossed pattern (the surface raised by hammering from within). This technique was used by goldsmiths throughout the Middle Ages, and with the advent of highly enriched, specialized, and costly parade armors, it was applied to armor making in Germany in the 16th century. This set of defense pieces is assembled for service in heavy cavalry, with a fully armored knight on horseback.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Ownership History

George F. Harding, Jr. (died 1939), Chicago; bequeathed to the George F. Harding Museum, Chicago; transferred to the Art Institute, 1982.