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  • Date: c. 1470
  • Medium: Low-carbon steel and canvas
  • Weight: 2.665 kg
  • Height: 27.5 cm
  • Diameter: 22.5 cm, at the lining rivets, inside
  • Circumference: 65.5 cm, at the lining rivets, outside
  • Inv: A75
  • Location: Arms and Armour II
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Further Reading
  • Sallet or ‘barbute’, Forged from one piece of low-carbon steel, closely resembling the Corinthian helmet of classical antiquity and probably suggested by it. A finely formed medial ridge divides the skull, while the face-opening is very narrow, with two oval holes for the eyes, separated by a nasal, and a long vertical gap below. The edges are not turned and there is no reinforcing band round the face-opening. Set at regular intervals around the skull is a row of fourteen small, rosette-headed rivets for the attachment of a canvas lining band, part of which remains. Below these rivets, on either side, are a pair of rivets for the attachment of a chin-strap. The back of the skull is struck with an armourer's mark comprised of a letter P within the split foot of a cross, thrice repeated; another mark on the right cheek represents the Lion of St. Mark. Compare the sallets A76 and A78.

    Italian (Brescia), about 1470

    De Beaumont Catalogue, pl. V; Viollet-le-Duc VI, 271-3; Laking, European Armour II, 4-5, fig. 335. Boccia, Rossi and Morin, Armi e armature Lombarde, 1980, pI. 62, who attributed it to a 'Maestro P', Lombard, about 1460.

    Provenance: E. Juste (Salade vénitienne à ouverture très étroite, 1,500 fr.; Receipted Bill, 11 September, 1867); Comte de Nieuwerkerke.

    L. G. Boccia (Dizonari terminologici, 1982, pI. 17, fig. E) called this type of helmet ‘celata alla veneziana’ rather than ‘barbuta’, which he confined to helmets fitted with aventails, such as Wallace Collection A74. The same mark of a P within a split cross is stamped twice, in conjunction with the mark of the two-towered castle, on: a 15th-century armet in the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, near Mantua (Mann, Archæologia, vol. 87, p. 340, fig. 44); a sallet in the German Historical Museum, Berlin; and on a barbute very similar to A75 in both shape and by having similar rosette-headed rivets, inv. no. 14.25.579 in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. It is marked with a twin-towered castle and a pair of split-legged crosses each bridging a single illegible letter. The letter P under a split-legged cross occurs without any other mark on two of the armets in the Sanctury of the Madonna delle Grazie (Boccia, Le Armature del '400 a Mantova, 1982, respectively, pls. 208-11, and p. 285, mark no. 43, and pls. 212-5, and p. 287, mark no.86). Two split crosses with Ps occur under the name Paulo on a pauldron in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris (inv. no. G.Po.2411; formerly in the Pauilhac Collection). The castle with one split-cross occur on an armet in the Carrand Collection in the Bargello, Florence; with two split-crosses on a sallet in the Royal Armouries, IV.18. The castle is found by itself on Wallace Collection A71; on a sallet in the Museo Civico at Venice; on a sallet from Norton Hall, now in Royal Armouries; and on an articulated 15th-century breastplate at Solothurn (Wegeli, cat. no. 1). The presence of the Lion of St. Mark suggests that this helmet at one time formed part of the armoury of the arsenal at Venice. Another barbute of this type, stamped with the winged lion, but without reinforced borders is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.
    F.H. Cripps Day identified the mark of the letter P under a split-legged cross, when accompanied by a second mark of a two-towered castle, as that of a Milanese armourer Giovanni da Castello, recorded 1456-68 (Fragmenta armentaria, VI, I, p.34). A. Gaibi however listed a Brescian armourer Peder da Castello, recorded in Brescia about 1450 (Armi antiche, 1961, pp. 67-93, particularly on p. 85), to whom the combined marks would be more appropriate. F. Rossi on the other hand attributes this combination to Pietro da Castello, (see A71). All this assumes that the P mark on A75 represents the same maker who elsewhere marked pieces with in addition a mark of a castle. Boccia, Rossi and Morin clearly doubt this connection.

    The formal elegance and strong sculptural character of this helmet is a product both of its design as a functional object and of its status as a wearable work of art. In armour, form and function are inseparable. The iconic shape of the helmet of the Ancient Greek hoplite, from which the form of Italian Renaissance sallets or barbutes of the ‘Corinthian’ style was derived, was determined by the need to balance the protection afforded against the range of vision and degree of ventilation allowed. However, the subtleties of line and proportion far exceed what was necessary for protection, and instead were determined by the tastes and aesthetic orientation of the makers and users.

    Separated from the ancient bronze helmets which inspired it by 2000 years, this helmet still bears a remarkable resemblance to its Hellenistic ancestors, and this is probably not simply the by-product of similar functional requirements. The Renaissance in Italy was defined by a deep fascination with the art and culture of the Classical world, including Greco-Roman armour and accoutrements. Indeed, ancient Bronze Age helmets are listed in a number of Italian Renaissance inventories, including those of the armouries of the Dukes of Urbino and the Grand Dukes of Tuscany at Florence. Admittedly, most of these documentary references appear to describe Roman helmets rather than Greek ones. However, it is probably significant that the fifteenth-century ‘Corinthian’ style of helmet is closely associated with Venice, which as a major imperial power in the Mediterranean ruled most of the islands in the Aegean for centuries. It is at least plausible that some ancient Greek helmets of the ‘Corinthian’ style found their way into Venetian armouries, just as Roman ones were preserved in central Italy. Certainly, the earliest examples of the re-emergent design, dating from c. 1420, come from an armour hoard found in 1840 on the site of a Venetian fortress in the Aegean, at Chalcis on the Island of Euboea. Wallace Collection A75 was probably made in Brescia, then within the Venetian dominion, by the armourer Pietro de Castello. Indeed, it carries what appears to be a Venetian arsenal mark, a stamp in the form of the winged lion of St. Mark, on the left cheek-guard.