When they were not creating complete armours they were busy piecing together composite suits to satisfy a demand which could not be met by the genuine article.
Today’s collectors therefore depend to a greater or lesser extent on the work of these 19th century craftsmen.
Poorly worked or light-gauge replacements are not highly valued, but when the best examples of their work turn up they command substantial prices.
This was the case with a full suit made by a skilled armourer in the 19th century which reached €125,000 (£112,500) at Czerny (20% buyer’s premium) in Sarzana, Italy, on December 19.
Standing 5ft 7in (1.72m) high on a purpose-made mannequin, this ensemble was boldly shaped in the 16th century German Maximillian style. The plates were deeply grooved with vertical flutes and worked at the edges with a fine ropetwist border. The skull of the helmet was worked as a single piece, still showing the marks of the armourer’s hammer on the inside.
Just as importantly, it was a known quantity, being shown in the catalogue of the 19th century German Kupplemayr collection, where the stamped armourer’s marks are clearly reproduced.
Armours were the main strength of the Czerny sale. An imposing field combat armour in the style of Anton Peffenhauser, c.1580, sold for €36,000 (£32,400) and two 17th century German three-quarter cuirassier armours made €38,000 (£34,200) and €25,000 (£22,500). From Italy came a field armour made for a boy, c.1800, which took €20,000 (£18,000) and a composite half-armour of c.1600 etched in Pisan style which rose to €29,000 (£26,100).
Czerny also offered some impressive horse armour, with a 16th century German fluted chanfron at €23,000 (£20,700). An early 18th century German wrought-iron horse muzzle made €18,000 (£16,200) while an equally decorative but more lightly built German horse muzzle, dated to the 16th century, took €10,000 (£9000).
A good consignment of armour was also a mainstay of the Thomas Del Mar (25% buyer’s premium) sale in London on December 2 which featured 23 lots from the George F Harding Collection, now deaccessioned from the Institute of Art in Chicago.
The major lot from this source was a late 16th and early 17th century north German composite full field armour, decorated with embossed and silvered fleurs de lys and other motifs against a black ground. This sold at £46,000.
Other elements of armour from this collection included a 19th century reproduction of a 15th century war saddle at £5500, a late 16th century composite close helmet at £7500 and the eye-catching pair of long-toed sabatons illustrated below.
This pair of late 19th century sabatons appeared in late 15th century German Gothic style, each measuring 2ft 3in (68cm) from the tip of the spur to the end of the long tapering toecap. With a provenance going back to the collection at Guadamor Castle, Toledo, they sold for £4500.