Beaten Black and Blue

The Myth of the Knight in Shining Armour

Ebook on the original colour finishes of medieval arms and armour

Beaten Black and Blue

The Myth of the Medieval Kinight in Shining Armour

A4 Format printed paperback, approx 200 pages,
fully illustrated throughout.
Limited edition of 300 numbered copies
Scheduled publication date: Autumn 2022
Price: € 79,50 plus shipping*

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Publication is scheduled for autumn 2022. Your pre-ordered copy will be shipped to you when the book is published.

Imagine that the very foundations of what we believe about the appearance of Medieval and Renaissance armour and weapons turned out to be wrong. What if, in some periods, ‘white’ armour was rarely - if ever - used at all?

For centuries it has been assumed that Medieval and Renaissance European armour and edged weapons were generally very-highly polished ‘white’, and the use of coloured and hammer finishes on armour was something that arrived around the end of the 15th century, and ran through until armour largely went out of use. Now, right away, I have to hold up my hands and say ‘Mea culpa: mea maxima culpa’, because when I started making armour, I too, used to believe that. It was only as I began to handle more and more of the real thing, and then carry out restoration work on it, that I began to find evidence of colour finishes everywhere, and when I say ‘everywhere’, I really do mean everywhere, and on early pieces. Dismantling armour naturally means you get to see surfaces that have been covered up, sometimes for hundreds of years, right back to the manufacture and working lifetime of the piece (including refurbishments and conversions) and this book is the product of what I found hidden away underneath rivets and between plates. It is full of photography which has never been published before, including pieces from private collections, although some of the biggest surprises will come from iconic pieces well known to you already.

A nasal helmet with silver decoration, Southern European, probably early 10th century. Private collection.
A reconstruction of a sample of purple - peacock blue - armour by Chris Dobson.
A painted great bascinet by the Master T, Milan, c.1425-30. Private collection.
The famous armour of Friedrich the Victorious in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.
A German gothic besagew with its original dark-grey finish.
The Triumph of Camillus by Biagio d’Antonio and Workshop.
Photos from the book, credits from left to right/top to bottom: anonymous, nasal helm with silver decoration, Southern European, probably early 10th century, private collection, photo © Chris Dobson; reconstruction of a piece of ‘peacock blue’ armour by Chris Dobson, photo © Chris Dobson; a painted great bascinet by the Master T, Milan, c.1425-30, private collection, photo © Chris Dobson; the famous armour of Friedrich the Victorious in Vienna (prior to restoration) photo © Chris Dobson; gothic besagew with dark-grey oxide finish, German, late 15th century, photo © Chris Dobson; The Triumph of Camillus by Biagio d’Antonio, Florence, c1475-80, photo © National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Regular readers of my books will know that I combine my study of armour and weapons with the scholarly study of period art and documents, and since I know what this book contains will be met with a great deal of scepticism - not to say outright disbelief - I have gone to great trouble to build my case methodically, and I base it on firm evidence. As with my book on hardened-leather armour, in this book I use my skills and experience as a Master Armourer to explain how colour finishes were originally applied to armour and edged weapons. By the time you get to the end of this book, not only will you know the period terms that were used to describe a whole range of different colour finishes, you will also know how they were originally applied, and just how impressive they were when new. This book also challenges long-held assumptions about the appearance of armour in the Classical World. So sit down and strap in for what is going to be a rollercoaster ride for fans of polished ‘white’ armour - you are never going to be able to look at that armour in the same way again.
Sincere thanks are due to the museums and public bodies which have generously contributed photography for this book, including: The Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich; the British Library, London; the Cleveland Museum of Art; Glasgow Museums; the Hispanic Society of America, New York; the Hofjagd-und Rüstkammer, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston MA; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Musée National de la Renaissance, Château d’Écouen; the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds; the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Province di Alessandria, Asti e Cuneo; the Wallace Collection, London.

Foreword by Martijn Wijnhoven
Introduction. Arms in Art
1. Mantua, Holy of Holies
2. What’s in a Name?
3. “through a glass, darkly”
4. Black from the Hammer
5. A Touch of Colour
6. ‘Botticelli Blue’
7. Peacock Blue
8. Covered or Uncovered?
9. ‘White’ Armour
10. “everywhere the glint of gold”

This publication marks a welcome return to printed books for me. It is being produced in a strictly limited-edition print run of 300 numbered copies, A4 format, paperback. It will not be reprinted or produced as an eBook. You can now order your copy using the Paypal button above, and then use the drop-down menu on the second button to apply shipping charges. To calculate which of the four shipping zones applies to you click here. You will immediately receive a receipt for your order from Paypal, which will be followed by a confirmation email from me. Your copy will be shipped to you when the book is published. If you have any questions please get in touch via the Contact page.

There is now a Pinterest board dedicated to photos from the book: see more photographs on Pinterest here. You can download a flyer for the book in PDF format by clicking here.

A 15th century sword with extensive areas of its originakl dark blue oxide finish intact on the hilt and blade. Glasgow Museums.
The Archangel Michael by Simone Martini, c.1320-25.
A Venetian sallet by the ‘Master A’, Florentine, c.1475.
Tarquinius Priscus Entering Rome, by Jacopo del Sellaio, Florence c.1470. Cleveland Museum of Art.
A hammer-finished tourney or foot-combat helm, South Germany or Austria, c.1450-75. Private collection.
A painting of Saint George and the Dragon by Bernat Martorell, c.1434-35.
Photos from the book, credits from left to right/top to bottom: 15th century arming sword with large areas of its dark blue-grey oxide finish surviving on the hilt and blade, photo © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection; Simone Martini The Archangel Michael, Siena, 1320-25, photo The Yorck Project Gesellschaft für Bildarchivierung GmbH (PD-Art (PD-old-70)); the ‘Master A’, Venetian sallet with ‘rozzo’ finish, Florence, c.1475, photo © Chris Dobson; Jacopo del Sellaio Tarquinius Priscus Entering Rome (detail), Florence, c.1470, photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art; anonymous, hammer-finished foot combat or tourney helm, South Germany, possibly Austria, c.1450-75, private collection, photo © Chris Dobson; Bernat Martorell Saint George and the Dragon, c.1434-35, photo © Art Institute of Chicago.
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