“LIONS ARMOUR” ATTRIBUTED TO FRANCIS I (1494-1547)
In view of its lion symbolism and proportions, “The lions armour” probably belonged to Francis I. It would have fitted the sovereign, who was 1.98 m tall. Its origin also gives us an additional clue: the armour was kept at the armoury of the Princes of Condé, at Chantilly Castle. Unlike war armour, this suit does not include a mesail (face guard), or leg guards. It is parade armour, to exalt the monarch’s heroic aspect.
“The lions armour” is in keeping with the “Grande maniera” style, which was developed by Milanese armourers from 1530 onwards and inspired by the equipment worn by warrior heroes in Classical Antiquity. This armour is the work of Giovanni Paolo Negroli, who excelled at making decorations in relief adorned with damascene (gold and silver inlay).
The theme of the lion, king of the beasts and a symbol of manly virtues, can be seen on the helmet, shoulders, elbows and hands (visual 2).
The visitor will also notice the necklace of the Order of Saint Michael, an order of knights founded by Louis XI, with metalwork at the chest. Identifiable by its shell patterns, its medallion shows the archangel defeating the demon, huddled at his feet.
Beneath this necklace, the silver cross on the breastplate is thought to be that of Savoy, in reference to Francis I’s mother, Louise of Savoy, princess of the ducal house of Savoy. It may also refer to the white cross of the French armies.