Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Albrecht Dürer: Irish Warriors and Peasants

For a historian and wargamer, the ability to glance back through time and get fleeting glimpse of what the uniforms, weapons and armor of the warriors, peasants and leaders of the armies of a certain period were like is very valuable. There are many published guides for such things, but I personally get most excited about sources from the time - usually sketches or paintings that depict the garb and dress of the warriors.

In 1521 Albrecht Dürer painted Irish Warriors and Peasants. This is a fantastic painting (Dürer is one of my favorites) of soldiers of the time and how they dressed and carried themselves. At left is an Irish warrior in his quilted war coat, conversing with a Scottish gallòglach (or Gallowglass), who is carrying his claidheamh mhòr (great sword) and longbow, followed by another gallòglach wrapped in his feileadh mhòr (great kilt) and followed, finally, by two bare foot Irish kern (peasant warriors) carrying pole axes. The kern would have always accompanied the elite mercenaries to assist them with their weapons and gear.

While there is no doubt that Dürer took some artistic liberty in his drawing, I would safely say that it is a fairly accurate portrayal of what he had seen. This painting won't help me much with the garb for my current ECW project, but there is no doubt that it will be useful for a future project I have yet to dream up as I have a great interest in the warriors and soldiers of Scotland and Ireland.

"This is the attire of soldiers and  peasants in Ireland, beyond England."
Albrecht Dürer, 1521 

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