This curiosity from the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851 is not a suit of armor, but a heating stove built in the shape of one. What do such bizarre glances back at the past tell us about the Victorian age, which invented the idea of progress as we know it?

How does such an object relate to the Gothic revival in architecture, particularly its so-called rogue form? Can you find similar examples in Victorian poetry by Tennyson or Browning of clothing present purposes (or contemporary concerns) in ancient forms?

After encountering this image in the Victorian Web, Jennifer Queree, Senior Curator, History at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, kindly wrote via e-mail:

We have what I believe to be a very similar — if not the identical — object in our collection. The only major difference to your picture is the small hexagonal stove beneath the plate on which the suit stands, missing in our stove, which has a short pipe extending from the centre of its back — presumably to connect to a steam heating system. It is a cast-iron reproduction (in the form of a heating stove) of a composite suit of German armour circa 1475, formerly in the armoury of Schloss Sigmaringen (Germany) and now in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The armour-stove was probably modelled by Wilhelm Elster (Snr) and made at the Iron Works in Mägdesprung (Harz region, North-eastern Germany) circa 1886. It is likely that was purchased for the collections of Canterbury Museum in 1886. Our suit has extremely long pointed toes which bolt onto the shoes.

What does this new information that such objects reached the far extremes of the then-British Empire imply about the relation of such revivalism and imperial culture?

Last modified created 1988; last modified 1998