Parade armor of the king of france
HENRI II 1519 – 1559
Original design attributed to Étienne Delaune, who served King Henry as an engraver at the royal mint. It is one of the most elaborate French parade armors.
King Henry II had two suits of parade armor; the first variant belongs to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The original second variant is part of the permanent collection of the Louvre. That suit, which is 100% steel, served as the master from which this exquisite copy was created in the mid 1800’s by Christofle et Cie of Paris.
In 1844 Charles Christofle acquired advanced technology from French chemist Count Henri de Ruolz. With it he built a company that manufactured objects d’art using an innovative new process called electrotyping. Supported by Napoleon III, Christofle became known for excellence in quality and design. This was due, in large part, to the permission granted by private collectors and museum directors who gave access to historic treasures.
The creation of the original armor would have required approximately ten years. The suit standing before you now was made with copper and embellished with silver and gold leaf accents. Christofle et Cie could have started and finished it within just two years, with one year dedicated to producing all of the pieces and the next to the labor intensive process of finishing the armor by re-etching all of the elaborate details on the surface.
Depicted on this armor are elaborate scenes from the Great Roman Civil War of 49-44BC and a variety of dense foliate scrolls and fantastic creatures that derive from the Italian grotesque. Epic scenes from the lives of Caesar and Pompey are portrayed, including Caesar’s Victory at Pharsalus on the back-plate, the head and ring of Pompey being presented to Caesar and the Throne of Egypt being restored to Cleopatra by Caesar on the chest plates, and the Death of Julia, daughter of Caesar and wife of Pompey, on the pauldrons, or shoulder plates.
This armor was discovered in New York by the proprietor of Chateau Belcastel in a motion picture prop warehouse, unpolished and covered in dust.