»Of tournaments and a princely wedding«

Chamber of Personal Armour and Turkish Chamber


Armourer in Innsbruck

The Innsbruck armourer belonged to the most famous in Europe since the time of Emperor Maximilian I. After 1580 Archduke Ferdinand II caused a greater part of the armour on display to be crafted by his court armourer Jakob Topf. The second armoury hall shows tournament armour for the ‘Plankengestech’, the free tourney, and the foot tournament, created for Ferdinand II and his court.

The Plankengestech, or Italian joust of peace, was a tournament contest in which the combatants attacked each other on horseback and with lances. The free tourney refers to the sporting combat on horseback carried out first with sharp spears and then with swords. The foot tournament took place as a pair or in a group, in a fenced-off course. The weapons used were long spears and blunt swords. 

The suits of armour for the foot tournament constitute a multi-part series whose constituent pieces of armour are differentiated from each other in their individual size and style. Twenty of these are still complete today, while of the remaining four, individual parts have been preserved. In this way, the foot tournament armour on display represents one of the largest, still preserved, ensembles of the European art of armoury in the Early Modern period. Originally, during the time of Ferdinand II, they were exhibited in the first armoury of Ambras Castle after 1583. 

Chamber of Personal Armour

The wedding armour ‘all’antica’ constitutes the centre of the Chamber of Personal Armour. Ferdinand II wore this for the tournament on the occasion of his second marriage, to Anna Caterina Gonzaga, in 1582.

The portraits depict famous generals of the sixteenth century whose suits of armour Ferdinand II presented in his Armoury of Heroes. In addition, the portrait of Christopher Columbus makes clear that he, as discoverer of the world of the Early Modern period, was also viewed as a ‘hero’.

 The stately armour ‘all’antica’ or ‘alla romana’ was created on the occasion of the marriage of Archduke Ferdinand II with Anna Caterina Gonzaga in 1582. 

The lion’s heads on the shoulders and the lappets are typical accoutrements of the antique-like style, based on the armour of Roman emperors. Such armour was first produced after around 1530 in Milan, and later also in other European armoury centres. The wearer appeared as an ancient hero, as it were. In this suit of armour Ferdinand probably embodied the mythical ancestor of Rome: the Trojan hero Aeneas. 

 The portrait shows Agostino Barbarigo (1516–1571) who commanded the Venetian fleet in the naval Battle of Lepanto against the Turks (1571).

During the battle, standing on the main mast of his flagship, he was mortally wounded by a Turkish arrow in his right eye. Vice Commander Sebastiano Venier was nonetheless able to retain the ship and, together with Don Juan d’Austria, to defeat the Turks. This battle at sea broke the supremacy of the Turks under Sultan Selim II and the North African pirates serving him in the Mediterranean. One of the suits of armour of Barbarigo, together with his portrait, was housed in the Ambras Armoury of Heroes. At the time of Archduke Ferdinand, the painting was exhibited in Schloss Ruhelust. 

The Turkish Chamber

Ambras Castle possesses one of the most important collections of objects of Ottoman origin from the sixteenth century; these were displayed by Archduke Ferdinand II in the ‘Turkish Chamber’, a separate part of the room within the Armoury. The collection that the Archduke compiled conformed to a ‘Turkish style’, widely prevalent at this period at European royal courts, and contained oriental objects and orientalising ones made in Europe. 

 Leather mosaics such as this dining tray are particularly rare evidence of the artistic craftsmanship of Ottoman art and culture. 

They were used like tables for serving food on the floor of a tent. The leather mosaics are designed with stylized flowers and inscriptions. A frequently occurring motif is the tulip, which was regarded as the Turkish flower par excellence in the second half of the sixteenth century.

 Turcica – Ottoman spoils such as round shields, bows, quivers, sabres, and balaclava helmets (‘Schischakn’) – are reminders of the Turkish campaign of Archduke Ferdinand II in 1556. 

They are an expression of the fascination of the collector for the valuable materials and the high artisanal quality of the Turkish objects. Specifically furnished Turkish chambers with Turkish spoils, diplomatic gifts, and purchased works of art were typical for the Early Modern armour chambers of European rulers. 

 This fantastic iron mask was affixed to the tournament helmet instead of a visor. 

It was part of the equipment of the opposing party in the Hussar tournaments. The numerous removable visors preserved at Ambras were produced at Ferdinand II’s request in the form of Turkish and Moorish faces in the service of Oriental costumes. 

In the sixteenth century the Ottoman Empire was a constant threat to the Christian West. Nevertheless, it was greatly admired due to its exceptional, technical conduct of war as well as its arts and culture. This ambivalence between fear and fascination induced European rulers such as Ferdinand II to create their own distinguished collection of ‘Turcica’. The objects presented there were a reminiscence of the military conflicts between Habsburgs and Ottomans, whose empire extended up to the Habsburg borders. 

Archduke Ferdinand II himself also led a military expedition against the ‘main enemy of Christendom’ in Hungary. Under his command, the besieged fortress of Szigetvár could be supplied with provisions and the besiegers forced back. The booty from this field campaign and objects from the Ottoman war of 1556 made their way into his ‘Turkish Chamber’. Sumptuous saddles, arrows, quivers, and reflex bows are found there, as well as sabres, shields, and helmets. 

On the other hand there are also pieces of equipment that were produced in Europe: these were mostly employed during tournaments that were organized in the context of courtly festivals and which served for military propaganda. At Ambras numerous objects for the ‘Hussar Tournament’ are preserved, amongst them a series of mask visors that are modelled on the physiognomy of Hussars and Moors. In these events the Hussars embodied the Christian knights of the Occident and fought against the Moors, who symbolized the Orient and the party that had to be vanquished.

A particular rarity is a series of leather mosaics. They count amongst the only preserved, original Ottoman objects of this type and are already listed in the oldest inventory of the Ambras collections from 1596. These leather mosaics at Ambras constitute a significant and extremely valuable inventory of the museum. 

The fascination for Oriental art and culture, however, is also evident in the courtly festivals and tournaments. 

Chamber of Personal Armour and Turkish Chamber

Ambras Castle
Schlossstraße 20
6020 Innsbruck

Daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Closed in november

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