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Avant armour

Steel ‘Avant’ armour, made by Corio Workshop,  Milan, Italy, about 1445

Steel ‘Avant’ armour, made by Corio Workshop, Milan, Italy, about 1445

This is one of the oldest near-complete armours in the world. It is in remarkably good condition remaining in the castle armoury of a noble family in the Alps until being bought by an American media tycoon in the early 20th century. It is often referred to as the Avant armour as this word – meaning ‘Forward!’ – is inscribed on the edges of the breastplate. Other inscriptions ask God, the Virgin Mary and Jesus to protect the wearer.

The armour was made in the renowned armour-making city of Milan. Armours made by its craftsmen were greatly sought after by wealthy warriors all across Europe. This beautifully shaped war armour was made to fit its owner perfectly so as not to impede manoeuvrability. It provides excellent protection against the various weapons that would be encountered on the medieval battlefield. Certain parts of the armour are almost four millimetres thick.

Technology, design, and decoration combine to create protection that is both aesthetically pleasing – with its rounded forms – and functional with such features as applied stop ribs that deflect the attack of incoming blades. With both religious invocations inscribed on the armour and the quality of the steel skilfully tempered by its Milanese craftsmen, the wearer would confidently go forward into battle.

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