Skip to main content

Backplate (body armour): M.1.2B-1936

Object information

Current Location: In storage






A backplate, decorated ensuite with the elements of the partial armour M.1.2-1936, probably for use by a member of the Papal bodyguard. The backplate is formed of a main plate and a skirt of one lame. The main plate is slightly shaped to the shoulder and the hollow of the back. Its broad, shallow neck-opening and arm-openings have file-roped inward turns. The turns at the arm-openings are accompanied by recessed borders. The turn at the neck-opening is accompanied by a raised band and, further in, by a raised rib of ogee form. A pair of round-headed rivets with octagonal internal washers located at each shoulder occupy holes that probably served originally to retain shoulder-straps. The inner rivet in each case has a gilt head and now retains the hasp of a modern buckle. The hasp, which is of brass, is crudely formed with a rounded end. The left hasp is broken through at two points and lacks its loop. Its detached upper end is now retained by a flat-headed rivet. The right hasp is complete and retains its large, double-ended oval buckle of cast and gilt brass. The buckle is decorated peripherally with raised pellets, and fitted with an iron tongue. A similar modern buckle and hasp, attached at the right side of the waist by a round-headed rivet with a gilt head and octagonal internal washer, served to engage a modern strap attached at the left-side of the waist by two round-headed rivets with octagonal internal washers. Only the proximal end of the strap is now preserved. Two vacant holes located to the outside of the buckle, a single hole located to the outside of the strap, and two round-headed rivets with gilt heads and octagonal internal washers located to the inside of the strap, represent the former attachment points of straps that would have served as a waist-belt. The lower edge of the backplate is flanged outwards to receive a skirt of one lame. The skirt-lame is attached to the flange at each side by a round-headed rivet with a circular internal washer. The upper edge of the skirt-lame is decorated with a single incised line. The lower edge of the skirt-lame, which is slightly arched at its centre, is decorated with a file-roped inward turn accompanied by a recessed border. The border is occupied by thirteen round-headed rivets with octagonal internal washers that retain a later fringe, matching that of the breastplate. Some of the rivets retain traces of gilding on their heads. The metal of the backplate shows some evidence of delamination at the right shoulder.
The armour is decorated on the backplate with an etched linear design of curved rays that diverge downwards and outwards and are separated by circular or oval pellets. On the backplate, the rays issue between a pair of adorsed, scrolling acanthus leaves, from the base of an urn, and are separated at their base by a pair of adorsed, stylised acanthus leaves. The decoration is gilt throughout against a blued ground. The main and subsidiary edges of all preserved parts of the armour are also gilt, as are their decorative raised ribs. Part of the composite half armour M.1.2A-C-1936


History note: Mrs E.W. Stead and Mr Gilbert Stead of Dalston Hall, Cumberland.

Legal notes

Given by Mrs E.W. Stead and Mr Gilbert Stead

Measurements and weight

Depth: 16.5 cm
Height: 43.2 cm
Weight: 1.98 kg
Width: 38.7 cm

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (1936-01-15) by Stead, E. W. and Gilbert


16th Century, Late
Circa 1570 - 1590


Although all elements of the armour are similarly decorated, they appear not to have originally been made for one another. The breastplate (M.1.2A-1936) is taller at the sides than the backplate, and decorated at its subsidiary edges with pairs of incised lines rather than the single incised lines found on the other elements. The character of the roping of the pauldrons and the turners (M.1.2C-1936) suggests that these pieces were made about fifteen to twenty years after the breastplate and backplate. It must therefore be concluded either that the armour is composed of elements of a series of similarly decorated armour, or that it is composed of unrelated elements that were originally plain and only subsequently decorated to match one another. The character of the decoration favours the latter interpretation.

North Italian

The armour has a blued and gilt finish. The bluing shows extensive patches of light pitting. The gilding shows slight pitting and some wear, especially at the roped edges.

Components of the work

Buckle composed of brass (alloy) ( cast and gilt)
Decoration composed of gilt ( on a blued ground)
Inner Rivet Head composed of gilt ( other rivet heads have traces of gilding)
Buckle Tongue composed of iron (metal)
Hasp composed of brass (alloy)

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hammering : The backplate is formed of a main plate and a skirt of one lame; hammered, shaped, riveted, decorated with recessed borders, raised bands, file-roping, ribs, incised lines, an etched linear design of curved rays

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.1.2B-1936
Primary reference Number: 18129
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 25 November 2020 Last processed: Thursday 3 August 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2023) "Backplate (body armour)" Web page available at: Accessed: 2023-12-04 23:53:53

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=Backplate (body armour) |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2023-12-04 23:53:53|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

More objects and works of art you might like

Composite armour

Accession Number: M.13-1941

Composite armour

Accession Number: M.1.1A-H-1936

Half armour

Accession Number: HEN.M.4A-D-1933

Half armour

Accession Number: HEN.M.1A-E-1933

Suggested products from Curating Cambridge

You might be interested in this...

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...