The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Visored bascinet
  • Visored bascinet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Milan, Italy
  • c. 1390 - c. 1410
  • Low-carbon steel, air-cooled, copper alloy and leather
  • Height: 26 cm
    Width: 37.4 cm, beak to back of skull
    Weight: 2.005 kg, without visor
    Weight: 0.82 kg, visor
    Weight: 1.24 kg, aventail
  • Label: Royal Archaeological Society label marked 25 in ink
  • A69
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Helmets of this dramatic form were used throughout Europe in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The distinctive muzzle provided an excellent ‘glancing surface’, the pointed form making it difficult for incoming weapons to gain purchase. A problem with the design is that the field of view from inside is poor- the vision slits or ‘sights’ are quite far away from the face. Therefore the visor can be easily removed by pulling out the pins holding it in place, so that with the visor off, the wearer could see and breath much more easily. The visor might be worn early in a battle, when the wearer was more likely to be hit by fast-moving threats like arrows and javelins, but for close hand-to-hand combat vision and ventilation became more important, and the open-faced configuration more preferable.

    This helmet is the only piece from Sir Richard Wallace’s arms and armour collection that has ever been lent to an outside exhibition. In Sir Richard’s lifetime it formed part of the historic ‘Helmets and Mail’ exhibition, curated by Charles Alexander, Baron de Cosson and held at the Royal Archaeological Institute in London in 1880. The exhibition’s catalogue features one the of the earliest images of the Wallace helmet, a line-drawing showing it without its present mail aventail, a patchwork of different mail fragments which was added by Sir Guy Laking in the first decade of the twentieth century.

    Two types of visor were worn on bascinets during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. One form, often referred to generally by the wonderfully onomatopoetic German term Klappvisier, involved the visor being attached to the bascinet skull by means of a single pivot set centrally on the brow. In the second form, the visor moved up and down on a pair of pivots, one on either side of the skull. A hole in the brow of the Wallace Collection bascinet, filled with an old rivet, indicates that when this helmet was new, it carried a Klappvisier, and was later converted, undoubtedly during its working lifetime, into its present, side-pivoting form.