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Horse Armor of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, for use in the field
Horse Armor of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, for use in the field, 1507
Made by the armorer Wilhelm von Worms the Elder, German (active Nuremberg)
Embossed, etched, and partially blued and gilded steel; brass; leather [armor]; birch bark, steel, leather, textiles [saddle]
Weight (with saddle): 89 lb. (40.37 kg) Weight (without saddle): 63.2 lb. (28.67 kg)
Gift of Athena and Nicholas Karabots and The Karabots Foundation, 2009
2009-117-1
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Horse and Man Armors

These armors, one for a horse and one for a man (see image below), were made over five hundred years ago in Germany. Constructed of steel plates that fit tightly together, they were designed to provide protection in battle.

The horse armor was made for Duke Ulrich (OOL-reesh) of Württemberg, Germany, when he was just twenty years old. It was made for a special journey he planned to take with Maximilian I of Austria to Rome, where Maximilian was to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The armor protected the horse and showed the duke’s wealth and status, since only high-ranking noblemen could afford armors as fine as this one. Its decoration conveys important ideas as well: a golden-winged dragon on the chanfron (horse’s headpiece) shows fierceness, and elegantly dressed women hold banners with the duke’s personal motto (view additional images). A literal translation of the motto is, "I have it in mind." Duke Ulrich’s contemporaries would have understood this phrase to mean, "I can accomplish what I set out to do."

This horse armor is extremely rare because it is one of the earliest complete examples in the world and its pieces have remained together for centuries. Its gold decoration also adds to its uniqueness. It was made by a famous master armorer, a person who specialized in making armor. The man armor was not made for Duke Ulrich, but it is from the same region and time period. Made by another master armorer, it was beautifully decorated with designs in gold.

Horse and Man Armors, 1507 and c. 1505 respectively, Germany
Gift of Athena and Nicholas Karabots and The Karabots Foundation, 2009-117-1,2
[ Man Armor Details ]

Let's Look

  • How would these armors protect a horse’s or man’s body?
  • Describe the designs on the armors.

Let's Look Again

  • Imagine wearing the man armor. What would it feel like?
  • How would you breathe? See? Move?
  • What do these armors tell us about the men who owned and used them?

This object is included in Looking to Write, Writing to Look, a teaching kit developed by the Division of Education and is generously supported by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Inc.

 

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