Inspired by… Silk Scarf inspired by the Royal Armouries collection

Andie Hill is a designer of bespoke silk scarves. Originally a costumier from St Albans, Andie first became aware of the beautiful decoration, etching and engraving used in suits of armour when she created a puzzle based on Henry VIII’s silvered and engraved armour which is on display in the White Tower at the Tower of London.

Fascinated by the elegance and intricacy of the craftsmanship used to decorate the armour, Andie says ‘I have always been inspired by history so when I began designing scarves I remembered the beautiful objects and approached the Royal Armouries with a view to incorporating them into one of my designs’. Andie viewed hundreds of items in the Royal Armouries’ collection and finally narrowed her choice down to three.

Silvered and engraved armour (1514)
Silvered and engraved armour. (1514) (II.5)

The Inspiration

The main decoration on the scarf is inspired by a 17th century backplate and tassets which are on display in the War Gallery at the Royal Armouries museum in Leeds. The backplate is etched overall, with a central cartouche containing the figure of Hercules’ struggle with the hydra. The tassets are formed of two lames etched with an armoured horseman. These decorated versions of the armour were worn by wealthy Dutch Burghers who could afford to show-off and they are frequently pictured in group portraits of officers of Dutch Burgher militia by artists Cornelius Ketel and Thomas de Keyser. 

Backplate and tassets (1620)
Backplate and tassets. (1620) (III.1358)

A similarly decorated armour is depicted in the ‘Civic Guardsmen of District XIII under Lieutenant Pieter Dirksz Hasselaer‘, by Cornelis van der Vort in the Amsterdam Museum. Another, which shows armour almost identical to the backplate and tassets is the ‘Guardsmen of District X under Captain Jacob Pietersz Hooghkammer and Lieutenant Pieter Jacobsz van Rijn’ by Jacob Lyon also in the Amsterdam Museum.

Other decoration and inspiration for the scarf were taken from a horse armour, known as the Burgundian bard of King Henry VIII. Designed by Guillem Margot and decorated by Paul Van Vreland, the bard combines embossing, engraving and gilding and incorporates the pomegranate badge of Henry’s wife, Katherine of Aragon. Its complex decoration depicts episodes from the lives of the saints and at the rear are the initials ‘H’ and ‘K’ for Henry and Katherine along with Tudor roses. This piece is displayed in the Tournament Gallery at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

Saddle (1510)
Burgundian bard. (1510) (VI.6)

Andie says ‘I was first drawn to the decoration on the Dutch backplate because I thought the design was reminiscent of the Flemish lace from this period, and I liked the idea of taking something so solid and substantial and turning it into something delicate’.

The Design Process

A variety of methods are used in Andie’s design process. Sometimes she will paint a design, other times she will work with photographs but usually, it is a combination of both. For the design of this particular scarf, photographs of the original images were provided by the Royal Armouries. Andie then worked on these digitally, cutting away the unwanted areas and working on clarity and finish. It took almost three weeks and the creation of over a hundred a twenty images to come up with the final version. The finished ‘fretwork’ design was then laid onto a brass background which helped to emphasise the metallic finish of the original objects.

The scarf has received many positive reviews and will be available for sale in the Royal Armouries museum shop in Leeds as well as on Andie’s website.