The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Zischägge
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Germany, probably Nuremberg
  • c. 1560
  • Iron or steel, gold, copper alloy and leather
  • Weight: 1.9 kg
  • Armourer's mark: Resembling the N in a circle used at Nuremburg
  • A104
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • This helmet is likely to have been made in southern Germany in the Hungarian/Turkish style, probably in Nuremberg, where many such pieces were made for the eastern European market and for the 'hussar' tournaments fought in Hungary dress popular in the imperial and ducal courts of the German Lands at this time. The pointed conical skull is surmounted with a knob at its apex, while the main surfaces have been embossed with dense fluting; around the lower part is a broad sunken band etched with interlaced strapwork and arabesques in the south German style and fire-gilt (the same decoration is on the ear-guards); the small pointed peak is riveted onto the front of the skull and pierced for an adjustable nasal of triangular section secured by a staple and spring-catch. The ear-guards are hung on leather straps and extended in each case by a small triangular plate to protect the chin-strap. Riveted on at the back is a curved and pointed neck-guard of two plates, the lower secured by sliding rivets, which is decorated like the peak, with arabesques of foliage on a granulated ground, etched and gilt; the strap on the inner side, intended for sewing in the lining, is modern. On the lower edge of the skull inside at the back is a mark resembling the N in a circle used at Nuremberg. The plume-holder formerly riveted over the left eye is now missing.

    Unlike Wallace Collection A103, which has a distinctly European character, the skull of this helmet is a more faithful representation of the Turkish zischägge. It may even be a genuine Ottoman 'turban' helmet skull, which was then redecorated by German craftsmen, who added the floral decoration on the peak and neck-guard, gilded the skull, and added the cheek-pieces. The nasal and the lowest lame of the neck-guard are 19th-century restorations.
    Thiexample and A103 show a type of helmet derived from the East, which influenced the shape of the cavalry helmet of the 17th century represented in England by the so-called 'lobster-tail' or 'triple-bar' helmets of the Civil War. The decoration of strapwork arabesques was already well established in Europe, having been first introduced from the East early in the 16th century.

    A very similar helmet from the Radziwill armoury at Niesweiz, now in the Wawel Castle, Cracow, is dated 1561. It presumably belonged to Nikolaus 'the Black' Radziwill, Grand Marshal of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Duke of Nieswiez and Olyka (died 1565) (inv. no. 2370; see Z. Bochenski, Armi Antiche, 1965, pp. 103-28, and 1966, pp. 57-60).