The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Armet
  • Armet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy
  • c. 1470 - c. 1510
  • Skull- medium-carbon steel, hardened; visor- low-carbon steel, unhardened
  • Weight: 3.6 kg
  • Armourer's mark: Triple mark, Milanese, crowned YO over split crosses possibly containing the letters CO
  • A152
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Apart from the sallet and bevor, the other type of helmet favoured by knights and men-at-arms during the fifteenth century was the armet. Hinged cheek-pieces were first fitted to bascinet skulls in the 1390s, producing a helmet that could enclose the head and neck fully while also offering a close fit. The cheek-pieces allowed the helmet to be opened to accept the wearer’s head, then closed and secured tightly around the throat and face. Worn with a visor, a mail aventail and a bevor-like reinforcing piece called a wrapper, the armet gave substantial, multilayered protection to the whole head and neck. This kind of heavier armour was especially favoured by Italian and Iberian men-at-arms who fought primarily on horseback, although there is evidence that armets were also worn in France, Burgundy and England. Italian armourers also made armour for export, some even establishing workshops outside Italy better to serve their foreign clients.

    This armet is an excellent example of its type, composed of a heavy skull, brow reinforce, and cheek-pieces. It is missing its original visor, wrapper, aventail and rondel, but its essential parts remain in excellent condition, complete with the original rivets, visor pivots and hinges. The brow reinforce has never been removed; a thin line of dark colour on the skull just behind its trailing edge strongly suggests that the whole helmet was once blued or blackened.

    The skull carries three Italian armourer’s marks, possibly of Giacomo Cantoni, a Milanese master documented between 1478 and 1492. The same marks appear on two very similar armets, in the Musée de l’Armée, Paris (c. 1470; inv. no. G.PO 672) and the Museo Diocesano, Mantua (c. 1460, inv. no. B1). These both retain their original visors, giving a good idea of what the visor of the Wallace Collection armet might have looked like. The marks are found again on a cuirass of the Portuguese hero Duarte of Almeida, called ‘O Decepado’, who lost both hands fighting the Castilians at the Battle of Toro (1 March 1476) and whose armour, taken from him by his enemies, is now in Toledo Cathedral. Its cuirass is extremely important because it shows how Italian armourers adjusted their armour designs to suit foreign taste. While Italian men-at-arms tended to prefer clean, simple lines, their Iberian counterparts had a liking for barbed or scalloped edges. Made for export to the Iberian peninsula, the Toledo cuirass has a plackart with a flamboyantly cusped top edge, a feature never found in Italy. The design of the Wallace Collection armet’s brow reinforce has been modified in the same way, with an additional point on either end at the back, where neither the Paris or Mantua armets have this feature. It is possible therefore that the Wallace Collection armet was also made for export to Iberia.