NEGROLI, Filippo
(documented 1525-1551 in Milan)


Filippo Negroli was the most innovative and celebrated Italian armourer of the period. For a clientele that included the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V; King Francis I of France and the dukes of Urbino, he made magnificent parade armour: intricately worked helmets, cuirasses, shields and other showoff pieces designed more for ceremonial than battle use. Adapted from motifs of antiquity, they flatteringly conferred on their wearers the exalted aspect of Roman emperors, generals and mythological figures like Hercules.

He was the most illustrious member of an armour-making dynasty that lasted for more than 100 years, beginning in Milan around the mid-15th century and fading out past the middle of the 16th. A member of the fourth generation of Negroli armourers, Filippo became a master in the design of steel armour, achieving a reputation as the era's greatest embosser of its surfaces. The technique, known as repousse, involves hammering designs on the underside of the plate, then refining them on the outside by delicate 'chasing' with chisels and punches. With some knowledge of the sculpture of Greece and Rome, and a lot of his own free invention, Negroli specialized in what was called all'antica, contemporary armour that had the aura of ancient civilizations. He used motifs like dragons, lions, bats, foliage and Medusa heads along with more fanciful images in ingenious ensembles, put together with consummate technical skill.

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