During the age of chivalry, armor was a necessity in times of both war and peace. In battle, a sturdy breastplate might have been the only thing keeping a knight from mortal harm at the point of a lance. In courtly cavalcades and tournaments, princes and other noblemen used suits of armor to project their wealth and power to others—a medieval fashion statement. Knights, a traveling exhibition now on view at the Ringling Museum—built by someone who himself knew something about showmanship—expertly explores the history, craftsmanship, and function of armor and weaponry throughout the Middles Ages and the Renaissance.
The exhibition consists of more than one hundred pieces drawn from the collection of the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy. One of the city’s quirkier cultural institutions, it houses the trove of art and artifacts gathered by Frederick Stibbert (1838–1906), heir to a fortune amassed by his grandfather, a principal of the British East India Company. Above all, Stibbert loved armor, and the show at the Ringling includes full suits of metal, mounted equestrian figures, helmets, swords, and other weaponry, examining the works both as protection and as decorative art.
Fans of Game of Thrones and The Tudors take heed.
Knights • John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art at Florida State University, Sarasota • to April 21 • ringling.org