The three-quarter-length cuirassier protection was made c.1600-10. By the end of the century such a style would be practically obsolete.
Such armour is far from dead in modern-day auction terms, as proved when this set smashed the £300,000-500,000 estimate at the London auction house’s Treasures sale on July 5.
It sold to a European private collector online.
West London arms and armour specialist Thomas Del Mar, who helped to write the catalogue notes, said as an early 17th century decorated homogenous three-quarter armour it was “the best seen at auction for four decades”.
Henry House, senior director and head of furniture and decorative arts at Sotheby’s London, said: “Everyone was saying to Tom and I it was the best suit of armour on the open auction market since the Hever Castle sale in 1983.”
In terms of provenance, the full title of the Treasures sale, ‘including property of the Prince of Prussia’, was particularly relevant to this armour. Thought to have been commissioned by an Italian nobleman, by tradition it is thought to have been owned by Joachim Friedrich, Elector of Brandenburg (1546-1608). The provenance then heads through a roll-call of Prussian nobility.
The quality and condition was also excellent. Many sets of armour are not homogenous but this example was more or less intact as made. It was actually intended for mounted combat rather than purely ceremonial use, and shows dents where it has been shot proofed to front and back.
Such armour usually resides in institutions or big collections that do not come to market, and changes hands privately if sold.