The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Burgonet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1580
  • Iron or steel
  • Height: 27.2 cm
    Weight: 1.45 kg
  • Inscription: 'G.P.'
  • A97
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Burgonet, having a hHigh roped comb embossed with gadroons; the skull has been embossed with entwined acanthus leaves and fleurs-de-lys, and turned outwards at the back to form a short neck-guard; the peak is riveted to the skull and embossed en suite; the hinged cheek-pieces are embossed with fleurs-de-lys, the edges turned under and roped, and the borders pierced with small holes for sewing in the lining; a row of holes, and four rosette-headed rivets at the back and on the comb, are for a similar purpose. A plume-holder is riveted at the back. The comb and embossed surfaces formerly gilt. The peak and probably also the cheek-pieces are later restorations. On the skull the letters G P roughly incised.

    Charles Buttin stated that this burgonet was one worn by the Gardes du Palais of Christine de France, Duchess of Savoy, sister of King Louis XIII, and wife of Victor Amedée I, Duke of Savoy. The first half of the seventeenth century would normally appear to be too late for a helmet of this kind, but Buttin's knowledge of the history of the House of Savoy was so profound that his statement must be taken seriously.
    A similar helmet is in the R. L. Scott Collection, Glasgow Museums.

    The letters GP refer to the Galleria Primi at Pisa, where armour used for the Giuoco del Ponte di Pisa was stored. This was a mimic battle between the citizens of the north and south banks of the Arno, held annually until the year 1807. It commemorated a tradition that the King of the Saracens attacked Pisa in 1005 at night, sacked and burned the southern portion of the town, and then advanced to cross the bridge, where he was assailed and put to flight by the citizens aroused by the noble matron, Chinsica Gismondi. Borghi, in his book on the subject (1713), states that the combatants (soldati) wore a closed helmet with barred visor (called by the Pisans a 'morion'), a brayette, and were armed with a long, wooden, shield-shaped 'targone', intended as much for thrusting and clubbing as for parrying. A burgonet was worn by the players, called celatini, who were without offensive weapons, and whose duties consisted of the reception of prisoners and the sending forth of reinforcements. In the Museo Civico at Pisa are some hundreds of helmets, breastplates and wooden shields, relics of the Giuoco; of these many have come onto the commercial market, and are usually found to have been adapted from helmets of much less merit than this one (see W. Heywood, Palio and Ponte, 1904, pp. 93-137; Cripps-Day, The Tournament, 1918, pp. 22-3; Camillo Ranier Borghi, L' Oplomachia Pisana, Lucca, 1713).