The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
War hat
  • War hat
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1550 - c. 1555
  • Medium-carbon steel and gold
  • Weight: 1.43 kg
  • Inscription: 'PAX TB MC VEN MS'
    Inscription: 'MAXIMO NON · MAGN'
  • A87
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • An extremely fine example of a decorated Renaissance war-hat, almost certainly once part of a presentation panoply of arms, the entire surface of this helmet is very slightly embossed with ribands, and richly overlaid with arabesques and trophies of arms in gold. A quatrefoil panel on either side contains the standing figures of two of the three Theological Virtues: Faith (inscribed FEDES), and Hope (SPES); in the front, in an oval cartouche, are the arms of the family of the Bernardo (or Bernardi) of Venice (Per bend: in chief checky of five, argent and four sable, in base gules; owing to the transverse halving of the arms it is hardly possible to render more than two out of the four points sable specified in the blazon), surmounted by the Lion of St. Mark, the open Gospel inscribed–
    PAX T MC VEN MS ([pax tibi marce evangelista meus) (see also A1054). Below, on an inscribed tablet, is the motto:
    On the brim are four cartouches with symbolical figures, masks and trophies of arms.

    The matching shield, long missing after its theft from the Museo Civico, Bologna, appeared on the art market in 1982 and has since been restored to the museum's collection. It bears four quatrefoil panels containing figures representing the four Cardinal Virtues: Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude, with the same shield of arms in the centre encircled with the words: POPVLVS UNIVERSVS AGRI BERGOMENSIS.
    The Registers of Venice (Registri Ducali, MS. R 99, 15, Vol. I, foll. 257a- 60b) contain several references to a Francesco Bernardo, Captain of Bergamo (Franciscus Bernardus, Capitaneus Bergami). He was Captain from July, 1552 to 30 August 1553, and sent a letter of congratulations (dated 8 June 1553) to the new Doge Marco Trevisan upon his election; he also issued a proclamation (dated 19 August, 1553) settling the differences about taxes which had arisen between the Commune of Bergamo and the military (la gente d'arme). This helmet and shield were probably presented to him by the Commune of Bergamo in recognition of the services he had rendered to the city.

    This helmet is an important early example of the use on European armour of the decorative technique often called false- or counterfeit-damascening, a form of overlay in which gold and/or silver is pressed onto the surface of the object, which was prepared to receive it with a matrix of fine cross-hatched scratches which allowed the soft precious metal to adhere. This technique, called 'koftgari' in India, only appeared in Europe in the middle of the sixteenth century, although it had been known in the east much earlier.