The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
  • Close-helmet
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • North Italy, probably Milan
  • c. 1560
  • Steel, velvet and gold, etched and gilt
  • Weight: 5.29 kg
  • A191
  • European Armoury I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Close-helmet for the joust, solidly constructed of five parts: skull, with central comb, laterally pierced for the attachment of one of the elaborate feather crests fashionable in the second half of the sixteenth century, with a plume-holder with spring-catch at the back of the neck. Visor pivoted at the sides and with single, horizontal sight, to which is riveted on the brow, a reinforcing-plate fitting closely over the forehead of the skull. The lifting-peg is missing. Upper bevor pivoted at the same points as the visor and shaped to fit closely to the lower edge of the sight. It has a small trap-door on the right. The upper bevor is fixed to the visor by a hook-and-eye, and a large triangular-headed key, and to the chin-piece by a hinge and turning-pin. Lower bevor or chin-plate, pivoted at the same points as the visor and upper bevor. It is fastened to the lower part of the skull by a hinged strap and turning-pin. The trap-door is closed by a latch. The hook and eye can be locked into position by means of a screw which was probably fitted with a winged head. The upper bevor is pierced by a threaded hole on the right side for a reinforce. The position of this hole has been altered at some time.
    The helmet is decorated with parallel bands of etched, floral, scroll ornament, the ground granulated and gilt, the bands bordered with narrow lines of guilloche ornament, and engrailed at the edges. The form of the decoration is the same as that upon the gauntlet and vamplate, Wallace Collection nos. A278, 346. This helmet retains its original lining of padded crimson velvet, quilted, knotted and still in good condition. There are holes for fixing a grand guard.

    The same decoration is found on an armour in the Royal Armouries, which came traditionally from the Ducal armoury at Lucca and passed into the Botfield Collection at Norton Hall in the nineteenth century; all probably belong to the same garniture. This helmet closely resembles one illustrated in the catalogue of the de Rosière sale, 1860, lot 30 (wrongly described as lot 70 on the plate), and may be identical with it.

    A left pauldron for the tilt with the same decoration is in the Bargello, Florence (M1427). This came either from the Medicean or from the della Rovere armouries (Thomas & Boccia in the exhibition catalogue Österreichische Florenzhilfe, Vienna 1970, p. 57; and letters of L. G. Boccia, August 1973 and 13th April 1977). What must almost certainly be the helmet of the so-called 'Lucca armour' in the Royal Armouries, which is very similarly decorated ( II.146; Dufty and Reid, 1968, PI. LXI left), appears on the table in the portrait, possibly by Justus Sustermans, of Ferdinando II dei Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, painted in the 1640s (Schloss Ambras, Porträtgalerie, Cat. No. 255). The Duke is wearing the Royal Armouries armour, which the painter has modernised by giving it long laminated tassets to the knee in the seventeenth-century style. It appears, therefore, that the Royal Armouries armour was also at one time in Florence in the Medicean armoury. The pauldron still there presumably belongs to it and, therefore, the present helmet A191 may well have belonged to it also. The garniture could have belonged either to Cosimo I dei Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (born 1519, Grand Duke 1537-74), or, since the Medicean armoury also includes that of the Dukes of Urbino, to Guidobaldo II della Rovere-Montefeltro (born 1513, reigned 1538-74).