The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Siege close-helmet
  • Siege close-helmet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy
  • c. 1635
  • Low-carbon steel, air-cooled, embossed, engraved, and blackened
  • Height: 27.7 cm
    Weight: 5.3 kg
  • A180
  • European Armoury III
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Close-helmet, the skull made in two halves joined at the comb. The join is very skilfully made and almost imperceptible. Low, narrow comb, without roping, pierced transversely with a single hole in the centre. The lower edge of the skull is splayed out to form a gorget-plate and has a sunk border edged with brass-headed rivets for the lining band. On either side, near the ears and close to the forward edge, the surface is slightly bossed out and pierced with three holes for hearing. Pivoted peak with sunk border. On the point is affixed a vertical steel spike, three inches long, formed as an ascending series of flattened balls diminishing in size and ending in a point. This can serve no useful purpose and must have been added to increase the grotesque appearance of the helmet.
    Visor pivoted to the skull, with two oval apertures for sight, the centre embossed in the shape of a human nose, pierced underneath with circular ventilation holes, below which are six holes set within an engraved line to suggest a mouth. Pivoted bevor, the lower edge splayed out to form a gorget-plate, and sunk border with brass-headed rivets. It is secured to the skull by a hook-and-eye on the right side. There is a second hook on this side to secure the visor. The entire surface of the helmet has been blackened.

    This helmet is of the so-called 'Savoyard' or 'Todenkopf' type, and was intended for use in siege warfare, hence its heavy weight. The term 'Savoyard' derives from the siege or 'escalade' of Geneva by the troops of the Duke of Savoy in 1601. A large quantity of their armour, captured on the occasion by the Genevese, and now exhibited in the museum of that city, shows helmets of this kind. A good example of this type of armour, bearing the monogram of Charles Emanuel of Savoy is in the Armeria Reale at Turin, inv. no. B 39.