The exhibition The Masterpiece – The Making of an Armour unveils a reproduction of a 16th-century suit of armour manufactured in modern times by armourer Albert Collins. From 18 February to 5 November 2023.
On display are the finished suit of armour, reproductions of the undergarments that would have been worn with it and the tools used to craft these. Visit the exhibition and try your hand at brandishing a wheellock pistol while wearing a gauntlet. You can also view videos and images that reveal how the equipment was made using traditional methods and reproductions of 16th-century tools.
Albert Collins borrowed the inspiration for his newly-crafted armour from two suits made for Swedish king Erik XIV in the 1560s, now kept in Stockholm’s Royal Armoury museum. The armour on display here forms part of a larger set. As configured here in the exhibition, it is best suited to a type of hand-to-hand-combat tournament game in which the contestants attempted to break their sword on their opponent’s armour. As it happens, the model for Collins’ headgear included in the exhibition, Erik XIV’s own helmet, bears the marks of many blows to its ridge and visor sustained in just such tournament games. The exhibition also includes a section dedicated to the armour’s various areas of use and its associated weapons.
Since no suit of armour is complete without its undergarments, Collins decided early on in the project that he would reproduce these too. The garments on display here are modelled on what are known as Sturedräkterna – the attire worn by three noblemen from Sweden’s then-influential Sture family – which was preserved after Erik XIV had the noblemen executed at Uppsala Castle in 1567. The original garments are currently on display at Uppsala Cathedral. The black silk shirt and the trunk hose in elk chamois stained black are displayed on a separate mannequin to allow visitors to the exhibition to examine these up close.
The Masterpiece – The Making of an Armour also includes a history of the arsenals founded in the town of Arboga by 16th-century Swedish king Gustav Vasa. Among other interesting insights, this section reveals to what extent German master armourers in Arboga influenced the aesthetics of Swedish-made armour during the period.
Collins’ Renaissance-era masterpiece is the result of a project aimed at manufacturing a complete suit of armour from the ground up. Collins received his mastership certificate in September 2020, thereby becoming the first person in Sweden to hold the official title of master armourer since the last master armourer, Olof Berg of Stockholm, died in 1781.
In the video below you can see short clips from the films in the exhibition (no sound in the video).