St. Louis is the place to see medieval armor this spring

Those interested in the history of armor, especially of the medieval era, will want to go to the Saint Louis Art Museum over the next few months. Their new exhibition, “Age of Armor: Treasures from the Higgins Armory Collection at the Worcester Art Museum,” runs to May 14th.

The exhibition begins with an ancient Greek helmet and bronze sword to demonstrate armor’s long history in Europe and includes superb helmets from Japan, India and Sudan to show the universality of armor. The heart of the exhibition is in the elaborately decorated armors—including seven full suits—produced by Renaissance craftsmen in the 1500s that imitate the fashion trends of civilian clothing.

Photo courtesy Saint Louis Art Museum

“Arms and armor bring together essential crafts like metalworking with the pure artistry needed for many of the designs and decorations, ultimately creating works that can be both beautiful and functional,” said Min Jung Kim, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to present these highlights from the Worcester Art Museum, and know that seeing so many rare, stunning works of armor in St. Louis will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our visitors.”

Pompeo della Cesa; “Field Armor from a Garniture”, about 1595; steel, iron, brass, gold, silver, leather, fabric; weight: 47 pounds 15 ounces; Worcester Art Museum, The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection 2014.112; Image © 2021 Worcester Art Museum, all rights reserved

The museum also added examples of 21st-century defensive gear developed by the U.S. Army as well as representations of armor from Hollywood films. The exhibition also includes depictions of armor in artworks from museum’s collection, including paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder and the Rubens studio, prints by Albrecht Dürer and rarely exhibited Flemish tapestries.


“These custom-made fashions in steel were polished, fluted, etched, gilded and embossed to parallel the styling of the clothing fashions of that time,” said David Conradsen, Saint Louis Art Museum’s Grace L. Brumbaugh and Richard E. Brumbaugh Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, who is curating the St. Louis presentation of the exhibition. “We are excited to present armor in dialogue with related works in a variety of media, as well as modern creations inspired by centuries-old defensive gear.”

Tickets to “Age of Armor” are $12 for adults; $10 for seniors and students; $6 for children ages 6-12; and free for those younger than 5. The exhibition is free on Fridays. Museum members can see the show for free anytime. Click here for more details.

“Target (shield) with Breech-Loading Gun”, about 1540; possibly Italian; wood, steel, tinned iron, brass and fabric with paint and modern restorations; 2 15/16 x 19 1/8 x 11 inches; Worcester Art Museum, The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection 2014.768; Image © 2021 Worcester Art Museum, all rights reserved

Top Image: “‘Maximilian’” Field Armor holding a Warhammer for a Horseman”, about 1525–1530; Southern German; armor: steel, iron, and leather with modern restorations, warhammer: etched and blackened steel; 22 5/16 x 4 1/8 inches; Worcester Art Museum, The John Woodman Higgins Armory Collection 2014.111 and 2014.469; Image © 2021 Worcester Art Museum, all rights reserved