Object Title

Helmet

Helmet

Date

1601-1630

Object Number

II.146 A

Provenance

From the Norton Hall Collection. Presented by the National Art Collection Fund, 1942. Believed to have come from the Ducal armoury at Lucca.

Physical Description

This armour was made for Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany 1608-21, for foot-combat at the barriers. It comprises of a close helmet, gorget, breastplate and backplate, tassets, leg-harnesses, pauldrons and vambraces. All the main edges of the suit are turned out over wire and are file roped. The whole armour weighs 335.kg (73.6lb). This was heavy for war (field) armour but normal for tournament armour. However it would be even heavier if it still had its extra reinforcing plates for jousting. Grotesque figures of humans, animals and birds can be spotted all over this armour. The etched and gilded decoration is in the Mannerist style, noted for its bizarre, contorted figures. Close helmet for the tourney course of four pieces with a low roped comb and a 'snub-nosed' profile. The lower edge is embossed to fit over a gorget. The helmet is made up of a skull with a flattened rectangular plume holder at the base, upper visor, lower visor, and bevor. The helmet is heavy at 6.35kg (14lb). In fact, when originally made, the owner found that he could not hold his head up for long and the armourer had to rivet a later gilded reinforcing plate to the gorget lames below the bevor to help support the weight. The 'close' helmet completely covers the head and fits firmly over the collar, leaving no gap. It is impossible for the wearer to lift the visor or take the helmet off without help as special screws lock the helmet and the visor down. The visor is decorated with a single large acanthus leaf above the brow, with the vertical bands of rinceau continuing either side. The skull is bordered by numerous rivets for a lining band. They are externally flush around the face opening. The upper visor is shaped over the front part of the skull and has a divided vision slit. The upper visor is raised by a lifting peg on the right side which engages into a cut slot in the lower visor. The lower visor has a medial keel protecting the face and also has four large ventilation holes on the right side arranged in the form of a lozenge with another hole in the middle threaded to receive a grandguard. The upper and lower visor and bevor all articulate on a pivot pin at either side of the skull. The four pieces are secured to each other by the three large screws on the right side: one is in a horizontal block where the lower visor meets the upper and threads through them both; another screw below it is attached vertically and connects the lower visor to the bevor; the third screw and block lie horizontally and secure the bevor to the skull. The wearer would have required assistance to tighten and remove these. Decoration: Primary: On medial ridges of the breastplate, and backplate, is the primary ornamentation of etched, symmetrical scrolling foliage intertwined with figures of animals, humans, and mythical figures. Ornamentation runs in gilded and etched bands alternating with plain, bright bands. Secondary: the secondary ornamentation is indicative of the style found over the majority of the suit. This consists of scrolling foliage alternating to the left and right side. This foliage curls off to either side as it progresses, terminating in floral shapes or personified figures, but also having outgrowths from it which continues on in progression. There are also various figures interspersed within the scrolling, being either human, animal or a combination. The secondary ornamentation was originally gilt all over, but most of the raised scrolling has been polished bright. Tertiary: guilloche, which was originally gilt, but most of it has now been polished bright. A gilded band remains almost intact around the edge of the lower bevor, visible only when the visor and upper bevor are raised. Quaternary: The gilded bands throughout are bordered with an engraved and blackened roped or Greek key design with a dog tooth edge.

Associations

Places Italy

Bibliographic References

A R Dufty & W Reid, European armour in the Tower of London, 1968: pl. LX, LXI; C. Paggiarino, The Royal Armouries, masterpieces of medieval and renaissance arms and armour, Milan, 2011 volume 2;

Notes

The armour was made for Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany 1608-21, for foot combat at the barriers.II.146K and II.146L are gauntlets now associated with this armour, with a different subsequent provenance. Other known elements of this armour are in the Wallace Collection: a close helmet for the tilt A 191, locking gauntlet for the tourney A 278, vamplate A 346; and in the Museo Nazionale (Bargello), Florence: left pauldron M 1427; shield M.766. A second vamplate was in the Laking and later the Lockett Collection. A reinforcing plate is in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Another similar pair of gauntlets, possibly for the same armour, was sold at Christies, London, 20 November 1996, lot 121.