Renaissance Dissident
Art History from a Different Perspective

Master Armourer

Armoured warriors in ‘The Arrival at Cologne’, from ‘The Cycle of Saint Ursula’, by Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio.

In 1985 I founded a workshop to make replicas of armour and edged weapons, from the Ancient World to the Baroque. I soon attracted clients from all over the world, both private individuals and museums. In 1995, the quality of my work was recognised with my appointment as Master Armourer to the Royal Armouries, with a workshop at the new Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds, England.

A reconstruction of a murmillo gladiator helmet, made by Master Armourer Chris Dobson.
A copy of a Roman Imperial Gallic ‘Type I’ helmet, made by Master Armourer Chris Dobson.
Photos above, left to right / top to bottom: a reconstruction of a murmillo gladiator helmet, 1st century AD (1992); a copy of an ‘Imperial Gallic I’ roman legionary helmet, later 1st century AD (1995). Photos: © Chris Dobson.

I began to make pieces of armour partly because I was a member of a Roman historical re-enactment group, and in the early years my replicas included many pieces from the Roman Republic and Empire, and the enemies of Rome, from the Mediterranean to Celtic Britain. In time, I also began to carry out restoration work on original pieces of arms and armour.

A reconstruction of a ‘mask’ helm of the late 13th century, mader by Master Armourer Chris Dobson.
A reconstruction of the composite hardened-leather ‘Leiden Vambrace’ of c.1350-60, made by Master Armourer Chris Dobson.
Photos above, left to right / top to bottom: a reconstruction of a ‘mask’ helm of the late 13th century, made for the Castlerock Museum (2009); a reconstruction of the composite hardened-leather ‘Leiden Vambrace’ of c.1350-60, made for Leiden Museums (2011). Photos: © Chris Dobson.

I had studied period art and sculpture from when I was very young – even from before I used it as a reference to make and restore armour and edged weapons – and from 2001 I began to publish my research in books and eBooks, and Medieval and Renaissance Italy became my area of expertise, in particular, the close relationship between art and arms. I was a regular lecturer at Arms and Armour Study Days at the Wallace Collection, London, and I was the Director of the two International Arms and Armour Conferences in Florence (2003) and Vienna (2005).

A reconstruction of a North Italian tonlet armour of the early 16th century, made by Master Armourer Chris Dobson.
A reconstruction of a pair of North Italian gauntlets for a boy, c.1560-65, made by Master Armourer Chris Dobson.
Photos above, left to right / top to bottom: a reconstruction of a North Italian tonlet armour of the early 16th century, made for the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds (1996); a reconstruction of a pair of North Italian gauntlets for a boy, c.1560-65, purchased by the National Army Museum, London (1999). Photos: © Chris Dobson.

While I was still living and working in England, restoration work took over almost all of my workshop time, and since moving to Italy, I have dedicated most of my time to writing, but now, in 2024, I am returning to the workshop to make replicas of armour once again. This year I shall be combining my expertise in art and armour to reconstruct a complete armour based on those in the Cycle of Saint Ursula, by the Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio (see the photo above).

To discuss a commission for reproduction armour, please get in touch via the Contact page.

© Chris Dobson 2024 | All rights reserved