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Leg-defence: M.14-1947

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Object information

Current Location: Gallery 31 (Armoury)


Production: Unknown




Defence for the right foreleg of a horse, for heavy cavalry use, forming a pair or near pair to M.9-1945. Formed of twelve downward-overlapping lames curved to the front of the horse's upper foreleg and shoulder, and increasing in width to its upper end. The upper edge of the top lame is slightly convex with gently rounded corners. It has a file-roped inward turn accompanied by a recessed border containing nine holes for lining-rivets, all of which are now missing. The lower edge of the bottom lame also has a file-roped inward turn. The outer ends of the lame are each pierced with a rivet-hole that formerly served to secure a strap around the rear of the horse's leg. The first to eleventh lames have bevelled lower edges. The lames are connected to one another at their outer ends by modern, round-headed lining-rivets with internal washers that are variously square, pentagonal, hexagonal or circular. The lames were further connected to one another by a pair of internal leathers located a short distance within the sliding-rivets. The leathers were attached to each lame by single externally-flush rivets, all of which are now missing.


History note: From the armoury of the Princes Radziwill, Castle of Niescwiez, Poland. To save the armoury from the Bolshevist uprising, the Lithuanian family of Radziwill moved it to their town-house in Warsaw. According to the London dealers Fenton and Furmage, the collection was acquired by the Austrian Dealers Pollak and Windonitz just before the First World War. Some pieces were sold in Germany, but most were offered for sale at Christie's, London, on 29 June 1926 and 14 June 1927 as the armoury of a `Russian Prince'. The present piece was sold as lot 115 in the first sale where it was acquired by Fenton for £73 10s 0d.

Legal notes

Purchased with the Leverton Harris Fund

Measurements and weight

Depth: 22.1 cm
Height: 25.6 cm
Weight: 1.07 kg
Width: 26.2 cm

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bought (1947-10-18)


16th Century, Mid#
Production date: circa AD 1550


Similar leg-defences for a horse are depicted in Hans Burkmeier's Triumph of Maximilian.

The leg-defence originally had a `black from the hammer' finish, now cleaned to a mottled bright finish with light to heavy pitting overall.

These are very rare survivals of armour to protect the upper part of a horse’s front legs. They are made of many small strips of iron held together internally by leather strips which give them great flexibility to move with the movement of the horse. Very little is known about this type of armour but they are shown on the famous woodcuts by Hans Burgkmair of the Triumph of Maximilian I produced about 1520.

Components of the work


Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hammered : Formed of twelve downward-overlapping lames curved to the front of the horse's upper foreleg and shoulder, and increasing in width to its upper end; hammered, shaped, riveted, with a recessed border, file-roped and bevelled decoration

Inscription or legends present

Inscription present: large

  • Text: 36
  • Location: Internally
  • Method of creation: Painted in red
  • Type: Number

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.14-1947
Primary reference Number: 18669
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Thursday 9 September 2021 Last processed: Thursday 7 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

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

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Leg-defence" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-06-18 16:57:09

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