Hussar armor, masks, and shields

Hungarian treasures in the world
(Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, Austria)
Hungarian Hussar mask for tournaments, 1557

It is described like this:
„The mask visors – in modern tournament descriptions they are also called “Larffen” – were important props for the so-called “Husari” or “Hungarian” tournament. In these disguised or masked tournaments, one party in a hussar attire faced a person disguised as Ottomans and Moors.

The Hussars, a Hungarian elite unit, were recognized as defenders of the empire in the east against the Ottomans; they appeared in the Hungarian colors red-white-green and wore Hungarian sabers, longspurs, winged as well as the long, hollow horsemen of Eastern European or Turkish lancers, so-called “copi”.

During his governorship in Bohemia (1547-1564), Archduke Ferdinand II organized numerous Hussar tournaments, which served as a means of political propaganda against the real political background of the danger of the Turks threatening from the east.

This propaganda was reinforced by the “visual imagination” using masking and disguise. Made of iron and painted with oil color change sights imitated the physiognomy of the “Moors” and “Hussars” at the tournament. Cut-out eyebrows served as viewing slits, and the painted eyes of the masks are provided with air holes. A riveted leather band above the mouth opening was intended to attach the characteristic long mustache of the hussars; it consists of horsehair here.
On the sides and top are leftovers of riveted leather straps to which a helmet, turban, or “Hungarian hat” could be attached. The masks were made in Prague. Incidentally, even in tournaments, Archduke Ferdinand II often occurred in the role of a hussar.
Currently not exhibited.”

Hussar shield (cc 1550)

This wooden-leather shield used to belong to a Hungarian hussar cavalryman. Now, it is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, Austria.

A Hungarian Tartsche “tárcsa pajzs” – Hussar shield, cc 1515

According to the Museum’s description, it is a Hungarian winged shield, with Dürer’s etching on it…However, we do not know whether it was made in Hungary or not. It is completely made of bare iron, and the wing-shaped shield is slightly convex. 

This shield was probably ordered in 1515 by Emperor Maximilian I (Emperor Maximilian I. son of Friedrich III. von Habsburg (1459 – 1519) on the occasion of the Vienna double engagement. The shield has a Gothic-style character. The shield is supposed to have been made by Hofplattner Hans Laubermann.
Currently exhibited: New Castle, Hofjagd- and Rüstkammer, Saal II
Material: Iron sheet, etching decoration with black filling, star-shaped brass rivets, brass rosette…

The main surface is adorned with a blackened line etching with the shooting of the bow, an allegory of the plague, which is closely related to Dürer’s fourth woodcut of his Apocalypse series that he created in 1498.

Dürer’s Apocalypse

You can read more about the connection between Dürer and Hungary here:

A Hungarian-Style Shield ca. 1500–1550 from Eastern Europe

(Metropolitan Museum, New York)
This wing-shaped shield and others like it in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection (42.50.30, 49.57.1), with the distinctive upward-sweeping back edge, were the characteristic light cavalry shields of Hungarian Hussars.

During the 16th century, the style was adopted across much of Eastern Europe by both Christian and Islamic horsemen. The shield’s elongated upper edge was designed to defend the back of the head and neck against cuts from a saber, the preferred cavalry weapon in that region.

Breastplate, a Hussar’s Cuirass, c. 1580 Hungary, 16th century

Steel (originally blued, now russet), etched and gilded strapwork bands; Overall: 42.3 x 35 cm (16 5/8 x 13 3/4 in.). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Severance 1916.1521

The description:
This style of this breastplate, with its numerous articulating lames, was probably used by a Hungarian hussar, a type of light cavalryman.
The steel plates were originally blued-now turned russet-and etched and gilded with strapwork bands.
The rows of vertical holes once provided gilt-brass settings for stones or glass paste jewels. The effect would have suggested the semi-oriental costume and armor of the Near East favored by Polish and Hungarian armies of the late Renaissance.
(Thanks to Philip Stryjewsky for finding it. He said he saw it by chance they had this out on Sunday as many pieces in the armor court aren’t always on display for public view.)

Here it is in 3D:
(Cleveland Museum of Art, the U.S.A.)

A round shield from the second half of the 17th century

Although it is not a Hussar shield, it is worth taking a look at. This particular shield is decorated with the palatine arms of the Esterházy family. It is from Hungary, from the second half of the 17th century. (Applied Arts Museum, Budapest)
Materials: copper; glass; iron; red velvet lining; velvet lining
Techniques applied: chiseled; embossed; parcel-gilt; silvered
Dimensions: diameter: 54,5 cm

Round, slightly sloping, with applied ornamentation in the central field. There is a griffin holding a sword – a heraldic motif of the coat-of-arms of the Esterhazy family – it is surrounded with a wreath, chased and embossed. 
Presumably, the shield is mentioned in the following item of 1725, inventory of the Esterhazy treasury in Fraknó castle: “A silvered shield, set with stones, with the coat-of-arms of the Esterhazy family” (Inventarium Thesauri Fraknensis Anno 1725. Almarium Sub. Nris 9- et lo. Nro. 4. – Inventory of the Museum of Applied Arts 236/1957). The item in the inventory is published and it is assumed that it must have belonged to the equipment of the army taking part in the siege of Buda.

Hungarian Gountlets of Mail

Date: 17th century; Culture: Hungarian; Medium: Steel, gilding; Dimensions: 29.158.196a: L. 12 3/8 in. (31.4 cm); Wt. 9.9 oz. (281 g); 29.158.196b: L. 12 in. (30.5 cm); Wt. 9.6 oz. (271 g) They are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York City (not in view).

From about the third century B.C. through the early fourteenth century A.D., mail, also called chain mail, was the predominant and most effective type of body armor known in Europe. From about the mid-fifteenth century onward, mail was used in conjunction with full-plate armor to fill the gaps between plates.

Separate mail sleeves were made to be worn with a cuirass (breastplate and backplate); shaped panels of mail called gussets, covered the armpits or the crooks of the elbows and were attached to arming jackets, garments specially tailored to be worn under armor; and mail breeches, called brayettes or pairs of paunces, could be worn by men fighting on foot.

(More items are coming soon…)

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