The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Visor
  • Visor
  • Hans Seusenhofer (1470 - 1555) , Armourer
  • Leonard Meurl (died 1547), Etcher
  • Innsbruck, Germany
  • 1529
  • Medium-carbon steel, hardened by quenching and tempering, and gold, embossed, etched and gilt
  • A204
  • European Armoury I
Commentary
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • The armour to which this helmet visor belongs was made for the future German Emperor Ferdinand I between 1526 and 1531, and most probably in 1529. At that time Ferdinand, the younger brother of the Emperor Charles V, was King of Bohemia and Croatia and Archduke of Austria. It was an extremely dangerous time in Eastern Europe- the Ottoman Turks under their Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, were advancing west, in 1529 laying siege to Vienna, Ferdinand’s capital. They were defeated by Ferdinand’s army, but returned in 1533, only to be driven back again.

    This intriguing visor was made by the master armourer Hans Seusenhofer and etched by Leonhard Meurl of Innsbruck. Once part of a large garniture, it may have been designed for a special type of military game called the ‘Hungarian’ or ‘Hussar’ tournament. This was a combat sport fought in teams, in which one side dressed up as heroic Central and Eastern European warriors, while the other side was accoutred to resemble Turks, or rather frightening, monstrous caricatures thereof. In this way the Hussar tournament represented the conflict between European Christians and the Muslim Turks as Ferdinand and his court wanted to portray it, celebrating their victories over their supposedly evil and sub-human enemies. The visor, designed to allow the Archduke to lead the ‘forces of Christendom’ in the Hungarian tournament, is thus embossed with a prominent nose and long moustache, the ethnic features which at the time were associated with Hungarians. It is also beautifully etched and gilt, the etching picking out a profusion of tiny wrinkles and stubble hairs, and is also pierced with symbolic eyes and a fearsome, toothy grin. It is an interchangeable ‘piece of exchange’. The helmet to which it belongs, now in the collection of the Hofjagd –und Rüstkammer in Vienna (inv. no. A461), had several such exchange visors used for different types of tournament combat and parade.