© Musée de l'Armée, Paris (inv. G117 et G554), Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Pascal Segrette
In the early 13th century, horses used for war began to be equipped with an iron barding to protect their chest, shoulders and flanks. The silhouette of the knight in armour thus became massive and impressive. From the Renaissance onwards, armourers played with this silhouette to produce prestigious and fantastical works following the spirit of the times. Commissioned by Ferdinand I of Habsburg (1503-1654) as a diplomatic gift for King François I, this set was made by Jörg Seusenhofer of Innsbruck (active in 1528, died in 1580), the court armourer, and engraved by Degen Pirger circa 1539-1540. This gift never reached its destination and was brought to France three centuries later by Napoleon in 1806. This set is made with embossed and gilded engraved iron. It has several complementary parts to turn it into tournament armour, according to the circumstances. François I’s armour weighs about 20kg and measures 1.99m in height. The total height of the silhouette with the frame is almost 2.50m.