Chris Dobson’s passion for art and history was ignited in his childhood by his father, who was a Bletchley Park code-breaker during WWII. He encouraged Chris to travel, which led to his first visit to Italy in 1979. In his professional life since then, he has worked for, in and around museums in the field of applied arts for over 30 years, originally on arms and armour. He worked his way into the field just like the artists of the Renaissance, with his hands: working in media from gold and silver to cast bronze. In 1995 his academic approach to his craft led to his appointment as Master Armourer to the Royal Armouries, being presented to the Queen at the inauguration of his new studio. Over the years he has been a regular speaker at study days at the Wallace Collection, London.
From the outset Chris’s field of research encompassed Italian art and history, but in time they became increasingly important in his work. In 2001 Chris published his first book, San Romano, The Art of War, demonstrating the close relationship between arms and art. In 2005, he was consultant on the BBC TV programme The Battle of San Romano, part of the series The Private Life of a Masterpiece. Florentine art and history are now central to his work. As an art historian, he is unique in the museum world: doing scholarly research and curatorial work for collections, but grounded in the ‘hands-on’ experience of an artist and Master Craftsman. This creative blending of artistic technique and scholarly enquiry is very much in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance. For his lectures and cultural tours he brings all of his experience together: both as an artist, and a lecturer and scholarly researcher. Not only can he tell you the history of an artwork: he can also explain exactly how it was made, from personal experience. He speaks Italian fluently.
Publications, Articles and Appearances
Surprising Piedmont: A Medieval Jewel in the North (Arttrav article, August 7th 2017).Read on Arttrav here
The Heraldry of Florence 1: The Heraldry of the Palazzo Vecchio (Article on this website, August 2nd 2017).Read here
Gilding the Lily. A Fresh Look at the Sculptures of Orsanmichele (Italian Art and History Essays 2, February 2017).
Gothic Piedmont. The Art at the Foot of the Mountain (Italian Art and History Essays 1, February 2017).
Medieval Hell’s Angels in the Florence Baptistry (Arttrav article, December 13th 2016). Read on Arttrav here
The Art of Assassination: The Pazzi Conspiracy and the Frescoes of Benozzo Gozzoli (Article on this website, March 24th 2016). Read here
The Ponte Vecchio. The Old Bridge of Florence (Chris Dobson eBook, December 2015). Available here
Sex, Violence and Parties: Politics in Renaissance Florence (Arttrav article, May 11th 2015). Read on Arttrav here
6 Things you didn’t know about the Ponte Vecchio (Arttrav article, March 12th 2015). Read on Arttrav here
How to Spot the Hidden Medieval Towers of Florence (Arttrav article, February 17th 2015). Read on Arttrav here
The Lost Towers of Florence. A Vanished Medieval Skyline (Chris Dobson eBook, Second Edition November 2014). Available here
"like burning coals of fire": Meet the Angels (Vinoutlet lecture, Florence, July 2014).
"Un uomo di cultura straordinaria". Federico II, Dante e Firenze (Vinoutlet lecture, Florence, June 2014).
Silk, Steel and Peacocks' Tails. Fashion in Renaissance Florence (Vinoutlet lecture, Florence, June 2014).
Smoke and Shadows. High Renaissance Painting in Florence (Vinoutlet lecture, Florence, May 2014).
The Compasses and the Knife. The Art of Assassination in Medici Florence (Vinoutlet lecture, Florence, April 2014).
The Lost Towers of Florence. A Vanished Medieval Skyline (Chris Dobson eBook, January 2014).
San Romano, the Art of War (Second edition as eBook December 2013). Available here
Sangiovese: Blood of Jupiter (Vinoutlet lecture, Florence, October 2013).
Alla Tedesca? Italian ‘Gothic’ Armour and the Export Trade (Chris Dobson eBook, July 2012). Available on Amazon here
Gallery Design and Layout, Exhibit Consultant, Castlerock Museum, Alma, Wisconsin, USA (February - March 2009, Exhibit Consultant to present). L’Uomo d’Arme Italiano Rinascimentale (Lecture, Museuo di Arte Sacra di San Giusto, Suvereto, November 2006).
Ethical Restoration - Renaissance and Re-Birth (IAAConference Lecture, Imperial Splendour, Vienna and Graz, 7th October 2005).
The Restoration and Re-Mounting of the Armour of Willhelm von Roggendorf (IAAConference Lecture, Imperial Splendour, Vienna and Graz, 6th October 2005).
Director, International Arms and Armour Conference: Imperial Splendour. Vienna and Graz, 6th - 9th October 2005.
The Private Life of a Masterpiece, ‘The Battle of San Romano’ (consultant and interview, BBC2 Television Documentary 2005, BBC USA television, 2008, RAI5 Italy, November 2015).
What do Armourers' Marks Mean? (Article, Park Lane Arms Fair Catalogue, 2005).
The Horned Helmet of King Henry VIII - The Inspector Morse Approach (Lecture, Wallace Collection Arms and Armour Study Day, November 2003).
San Romano, the Art of War (IAAConference Lecture, Art and Arms. Florence, City of the Medici, Florence, 1st June 2003).
‘As Tough as Old Boots?’ A Study of Hardened Leather Armour. Part 1: Techniques of Manufacture (IAAConference Lecture and Article, Art and Arms. Florence, City of the Medici, Florence, 31st May 2003).
Director, International Arms and Armour Conference: Art and Arms. Florence, City of the Medici, Florence, 31st May - 2nd June 2003.
St. George's Workforce (Article, Park Lane Arms Fair Catalogue, 2002).
San Romano, the Art of War (Chris Dobson 2001).
The Man at Arms, Layers of Defence from the Inside Out (Lecture, Wallace Collection Arms and Armour Study Day, November 1999).
The ‘all’antica’ Embossing of Armour (Live Demonstration, Wallace Collection Arms and Armour Study Day, November 1997).
Appointment as Master Armourer to the Royal Armouries (November 1995 - October 1996).
Nature by Design. The Protection Racket (Costumed Workshop and Arming Sequences, BBC2 Television Documentary, broadcast 26th September 1993).
Armourer, Hamlet, Director Franco Zeffirelli (Production Company: Nelson Entertainment/Icon Productions, film released 19th December 1990). Armourer, King Lear, Company of Sir Ian McKellen (Royal National Theatre, London, July 1990).
Founded workshop to reconstruct armour and edged weapons (1