The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Burgonet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Milan, Italy
  • c. 1510
  • Iron or steel
  • Weight: 1.44 kg
    Width: 8 cm, peak
  • Armourer's mark: G Or possibly an owner's mark
  • A89
  • European Armoury I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This piece is an important early example of the Renaissance type called a burgonet. This specific form, sometimes referred to as a 'casquetel', is characterised by its multi-plate rear construction and wide peak.

    The surface has been acid-etched with bands of scrolled foliage on a hatched ground in the early Italian style. On the peak is etched the branches of an oak tree and two clusters of flames along with scale ornament and acanthus leaves.

    A mark resembling a G on the peak which has been thought to be either an armourer's mark or a blemish in the metal is undoubtedly a punched mark. The punch has jumped slightly and the bulge caused by the blow is clearly visible inside. Presumably it is either that of an armourer or, possibly, that of an owner.

    The burning logs device may refer to the Caldora family. This helmet compares well with a similar etched burgonet in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris ( inv. no. H 38); another, but undecorated, is in the British Museum (Burges Bequest; inv. no. 81.8-2.37).
    The articulation high up the back of the nape is also found on some close-helmets of the time (cf. Mann, Surrey Arch. Collections, Vol. XLVII, 1941, pp. 84-7).
    This type of headpiece was worby Landsknecht infantry, and also by horsemen in preference to the heavier close-helmet. For the style of etching on a hatched ground, compare the armours of this date at Churburg Castle (inv. nos. 69 and 70).

    L. G. Boccia and E. T. Coelho (1967, PI. 236, pp. 228 and 236-7) suggested that this helmet once formed part of the Medici armoury, dispersed in 1775, which included the Ducal armoury from Urbino. They further suggested that the mark of a G might indicate that this helmet originally belonged to Guidobaldo I da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1472-1508).
    Similar gouts of flame are etched on a breastplate in the British Museum (inv. no. 81.8-2.51), on loan to the Royal Armouries since 1976. This also has the mark of G and a second mark of a cross in outline with open ends to the equal arms. The mark of a G also occurs on two breastplates in the Royal Armouries (inv. nos. III.85; Dufty and Reid, 1968, PI. CXII, below left, and No. III. 76). Both also bear a mark of a cross. The comparable helmet in the British Museum has also been on loan to the Royal Armouries since 1976. Another is in the Musée de l' Armée et de l'Histoire Militaire, Brussels (inv. no. II. 192) and yet another, complete with ear-pieces shaped like cockle shells, is in the Cleveland Museum of Art (inv. no.16.1642; 1924 Cat., no. B II). A similar helmet complete with an ear-piece like a cockle-shell is depicted in a portrait of an unknown knight being armed by his two pages, painted about 1540 by Paris Bordone (Metropolitan Museum, New York, No.1973.311.1).