Skip to main content
17.05.2024

From 15 May through 12 August 2024, the Arsenal pavilion of Tsarskoe Selo offers the exhibition 'Costume Armour' of the Mournful Knight from the State Hermitage Collection.

The one-piece exhibition showcases a rare early-sixteenth-century suit of armour that was possibly used in the funeral ceremony of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna in 1762.

Probably North German, the suit was transferred to Tsarskoe Selo from the Memorial Hall (later the Artillery Museum) in St Petersburg. It was painted black for imperial funeral ceremonies with the Happy and Mournful Knights, the allegorical participants in the golden and black armours symbolising life and death. The suit was stored in the Arsenal until the arms and armour collection of Nicholas I and Alexander II was moved to the Hermitage in the 1880s, where the black paint was later removed. Now, the permanent display in the Arsenal includes Russia's only complete surviving set of the Happy Knight and Mournful Knight suits used for the nineteenth-century imperial funeral ceremonies.

The Hermitage armour was designed for foot tournaments gaining popularity among Renaissance aristocracies throughout Europe as the importance of infantry in battle grew since the early sixteenth century. Knowing that foot combatants mainly aimed to stab each other in unprotected areas, manufacturers made every effort to make their armours as safe as possible. Hence the plated elbows and armpits on the Hermitage suit. Its unusual shoulder design suggests that the armour could be used for equestrian tournaments as well. As a so-called "costume armour", the suit imitates some elements of colourful civilian puffed and slashed clothes that came into fashion in the early sixteenth century.

This exhibition continues a joint project between Tsarskoe Selo and the State Hermitage launched several years ago to showcase objects from the former collection of the Arsenal.