Royal Armouries

Plaster Model of Knights in Combat

Images

monochrome photo of a model of jousting knights and large wall-mounted arms display

Plaster model of jousting knights in the New Horse Armoury. 1870s (XVII.29) © Private collection 2013

  • monochrome photo of a model of jousting knights and large wall-mounted arms display

    Plaster model of jousting knights in the New Horse Armoury. 1870s (XVII.29) © Private collection 2013

  • monochrome photo of a hall with armours on display

    New Horse Armoury, Tower of London, 1870s

  • colour photo of a carved wooden head of Henry V

    Carved wooden head of Henry V. English, about 1688-91 (XVII.44)

Date: 1421 | Object number: XVII.29

Statistics

Object Provenance: France, Paris, 1838
Object Number: XVII.29

Plaster Model of Knights in Combat

Description

This sculpture is probably the best known of the Compte de Nieuwerkerke’s works and shows the encounter between Thomas, 1st Duke of Clarence (Henry V’s brother) and Garin de Fontaine at the battle of Baugé, 22 March 1421 during the 100 Years War.

Thomas had not been present at his brother’s famous victory at Agincourt (1415), and it may have been his desire to establish his battle credentials that led him to push on against the Scots fighting with the French despite advice to the contrary. In a rather ironic twist of fate his downfall may have been brought about by the lack of archers in his company compared to the number of Scottish bowmen, although the Scots and French were numerically inferior. As it was, in what was effectively an ill-advised sortie, Clarence and a significant number of his men at arms were killed. The historic accounts are confused, and it is not clear who actually killed Clarence, but as he was Henry V’s Regent at the time, his death was a significant blow to the English.

Alfred-Emilien O’Hara van Nieuwerkerke (1811 – 1892) was a French sculptor of Dutch descent who enjoyed a high level civil service career in the Second French Empire, until its fall in 1870. A six month trip to Italy in 1834 awakened his interest in ancient sculpture, and he returned to France to become a sculptor. Nieuwerkerke’s civil service career was conducted in the governance of museums, and by the late 1860s he was in effect acting as a kind of minister of cultural affairs. With the fall of the Empire, he left Paris and moved to Italy, via London, shedding much of his collections as he went. The collector Sir Richard Wallace bought parts of his arms and armour collection.

This plaster model is recorded in the grangerised edition of Hewitt’s catalogue as a handwritten additional entry at the end of class 18 (Miscellaneous Objects)
‘56. Model of the death of the Duke of Clarence’. It was about this time that Nieuwerkerke was in London and trying to sell some of his collections to the South Kensington Museum (today known as the V&A). The 1880 Armories [sic] Guide p.16 notes ‘A small glass case containing a model representing the encounter of the Duke of Clarence, brother to Henry V., and Gavin [sic] de Fontaine, a French knight, in which the duke was slain’.

Bronze copies of this piece were cast by the Susse foundry from 1839-75, and the Royal Armouries acquired one in 1948 (XVII.37) presented by Mrs Fazan & Miss Audrey Collier.

Statistics

Object Provenance: France, Paris, 1838
Object Number: XVII.29

Related Objects

Henry V in the Line of Kings Click on the title link above to find out more.

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Line of Kings