Our piece had not had a happy life – it had been stored in pieces, dirty and held together with electrical wire (Fig. 1 above), and although it wasn’t actively corroding, much of the leather strapping had rotted, it was seized up with accumulations of grease and dirt, and several of the joints were broken or missing their rivets. Our task was firstly to clean, repair, and then assemble the armour as a freestanding, fully dressed suit for return to the owner.
Armours are ingeniously constructed. Although the total weight of the pieces adds up to 26kg, it is distributed widely over the body of the wearer and supported from the strongest points of the body - mainly the shoulders and waist - allowing the wearer maximum freedom of mobility in the limbs. We needed to construct a mount that allowed the armour to be supported in the same way. A proprietary display mannequin had been provided to us for the torso, head and arms, and once the shoulder and waist straps were replaced, we were able to dress it with the ‘cuirass’ – the front and back torso armour which would hang as naturally as possible from the shoulders (Fig. 2 below).