The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Burgonet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Austria, possibly
  • 19th century
  • Iron or steel, silver and gold, embossed, chased, counterfeit-damascened, blued
  • Weight: 2.03 kg
  • A110
  • European Armoury III
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The skull, having a high roped comb, has been forged in one piece and has been extended in front into a peak over the eyes, and at the back for form a neck-guard. At the back is attached a plume-holder in the form a Medusa's head; the hinged cheek-pieces are shaped to fit around the edge of the peak on either side.
    The entire surface is richly embossed, chased, damascened, blued, and plated with silver and matte gold; the comb is decorated on either side with cartouches containing representations of the stories of Leda and the Swan and Cupid and Psyche, between trophies of musical instruments and arms. The roping of the comb is formed by entwined snakes incised with small scales and silvered. The skull is embossed with a large circular panel on either side, containing a representation of Marcus Curtius leaping into the pit, and Horatius Cocles defending the Sublician Bridge, among bands of trophies of arms; the peak is embossed in front with the head of Medusa, supported by griffins on either side, the neck-guard with a female mask, similarly supported; the cheek-pieces are embossed with griffins. The edges throughout are turned under and bordered with round-headed rivets for the lining straps.

    Although the workmanship of this helmet is technically very good, its design an inconsistent compilation of elements taken from the distinct all antica and Mannerist styles, combined with fanciful motifs not found on any genuine helmet of the sixteenth century. When it was purchased by Sir Richard Wallace from the dealer Henry Durlacher in 1876, this 'very fine repousse helmet of the 16th century, damascened in silver and gold' was probably less than twenty years old. There is a tradition that Durlacher acquired this burgonet from an Italian collection.

    The embossed subjects on this burgonet are the same, but of rather different form, as those on one made for the Archduke Charles of Styria at Vienna (Böheim, Album, Pl. XXVI; G. & T., No. III, 66). The Vienna helmet has inspired at least one copy in modern times. Other instances of contemporary repetitions of a design occur in the case of the embossed-lion helmet and shield of the Archduke Ferdinand at Vienna (Laking IV, Fig. 1237), of which versions of the former are in the Metropolitan and the Fitzwilliam Museums, and of the latter in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris, and the former Beardmore Collection.

    A very similar helmet is in the Museum at Lund (No. K.M.25.517; Blomquist, Kulturen 1958, 1959, pp. 20-35). Its cheek-pieces are missing. Yet another unfinished version was formerly in the collection of S. V. Grancsay.