Billionaire Collector Ronald Lauder Is Giving the Met More than 90 Rare Pieces of Arms and Armor in One of the Largest Donations of Its Kind

The cosmetics magnate and Met mega-patron amassed his own collection with key help from an early curator in the department.

Ronald S. Lauder in his home, standing between a knight and charger in German armor, 1515-30 (left), and an Italian suit of armor, circa 1600-10. Photo: Mark Hiethoff.

Ronald S. Lauder has promised to give 91 objects from his collection of European arms and armor to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which already owns an esteemed array of some 14,000 related pieces.

The billionaire collector’s love for the swashbuckling material began in the very galleries where the objects will soon reside.

“Since I was a teenager I have been fascinated by and had a special love for arms and armor,” Lauder said in a statement about the gift, which includes shields, swords and daggers, maces, crossbows, and firearms. “I would spend hours at the Met, imagining the stories of knights, kings, and princes. Later, I realized that arms and armor had a distinct beauty all its own, which represents the best sculpture of the 15th and 16th centuries.”

Emanuel Sadeler, German, Munich, active 1594–1610. Wheellock pistol, ca. 1600–1610. Photo: Hulya Kolabas.

 

Lauder began to develop his eye for armor more seriously just a few years later, in his 20s, with the assistance of Stephen Grancsay, an early arms and armor curator at the Met. The museum is billing the gift as the most significant of its kind in almost eight decades, and will rename the department’s 11 rooms for Lauder in honor of the gift, which also includes “significant” financial support earmarked for improvements to the galleries. Lauder is also co-chair of the department’s visiting committee, an advisory group, and has previously loaned objects for exhibitions and long-term display.

Collected over the course of more than four decades, the donation includes exceptionally rare objects, like one of only two known examples of 17th-century field armor built in Tuscany in a workshop patronized by the royal Medici family. There’s also a tournament and field suit created as a gift for the 17th-century duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel in the royal court workshops at Greenwich. It’s the only existing one with its colorful decoration remaining, and, what’s more, it will be reunited with the pair of gauntlets that were created with it and which have resided at the Met since 1913. The complete set will soon go on view for six months.

“We are deeply grateful to Ronald S. Lauder for this gift of masterpieces from his celebrated arms and armor collection—which is outstanding in its magnitude and one of a kind in its quality—and his generous support for programming,” said museum director Max Hollein in a statement.

See more images from Lauder’s donation below.

Half-Shaffron for an Armor of King Philip IV of Spain or his Brother Don Carlos. Attributed to Pierre du Coudroy (1560–ca. 1626) and François Le Gras (active ca. 1600–1640), armorers. Flemish, Brussels, 1624–26. Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Armor for the Field and Tournament of Duke Friedrich Ulrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg. British, Greenwich, 1610–1613. Photo: Hulya Kolabas.

Visored Bascinet. German, ca. 1400. Photo: Hulya Kolabas.

Composite Crossbow, German, ca. 1500. Photo: Hulya Kolabas.


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