The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Close-helmet
  • Attributed to Wolfgang Grosschedel (1517 - 1562)
  • Germany, probably Landshut
  • c. 1550 - c. 1560
  • Iron or steel and copper alloy, etched, gilt and blackened
  • Weight: 3.265 kg
  • A182
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Possessing an elegance which immediately catches the eye, this fine south German helmet has been expertly sculpted in steel and decorated with great skill by a master etcher and goldsmith. It is a luxurious wearable art-work, and also a practical helmet designed to be used in anger on the Renaissance battlefield.

    This piece is one of several fragments of a once very impressive garniture for the field, that is, a war armour equipped with additional pieces used to convert it for different military roles. A single armour, through its exchange pieces, could serve in light, medium and heavy cavalry actions as well as for combat on foot. The surviving pieces can only hint at the magnificence of this now predominantly lost masterpiece. The maker cannot be firmly identified, but a good case might be made for the great Landshut master Wolfgang Grosschedel, court armourer to King Philip II of Spain.

    Parts of this armour were even once thought, mistakenly, to have been made for King Philip himself. Nevertheless, this helmet and the other pieces belonging to the same armour, are certainly of the very high quality for which Grosschedel became famous.

    The original owner remains unidentified, although one candidate is Wilhelm V ‘The Rich’, Duke of Jülich, Cleves and Berg (1516-92), brother of Anne of Cleves (fourth wife of King Henry VIII of England) and a powerful militaristic ruler of his territories, which now comprise parts of north-western Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The attribution of this armour to Duke Wilhelm is based on a bronze medal which depicts him wearing an armour carrying the same distinctive barred decoration.