Medieval Armor in a Prayer Book

Medieval Armor in a Prayer Book

By Stephen V. Grancsay

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Vol.16:10 (1958)

Introduction: Myths die hard, so we are often told, in every realm of thought. Apparently because the age of chivalry and the literature it inspired belonged to the Middle Ages most visitors to the Museum associate the major part of the armor collection with that period. Actually medieval armor is so rare that only a small fraction of the extant armor is as early as the fourteenth century. Early medieval armor, in fact, with the exception of the steel helmet, was chiefly of mail, a type of defense, worn in the East until modern times, which it is extraordinarily difficult to date accurately. Complete plate armor was not fully developed much before the middle of the fourteenth century. It is true that the Metropolitan Museum’s armor exhibition includes a generous share of the precious few fourteenth-century elements of extant armor. Nevertheless, this armor has, by fair wear and tear, lost its original polished or colored surface, or the original fabric with which it was covered, and the accessories worn with it: the sword belt and the surcoat with colored heraldic bearings have long since disappeared. Knowledge of the appearance of armor as it was worn in the Middle Ages must therefore come largely from contemporary sculpture, painting, and illuminated manuscripts. The present article is concerned with the representation of arms and armor in the Book of Hours illustrated by Jean Pucelle for Jeanne d’Evreux, as a gift from her husband, Charles IV of France.

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