Close helmet for foot combat at the barriers

This helmet was designed for tournament foot combat "at the barriers," in which the opponents fought from opposite sides of a wooden partition. With such an arrangement, the head was naturally a prime target: this helmet is made of especially thick steel, and the marks of many sword-blows can be seen on the skull. (Age of Armor)


Ca. 1600-1605, of the form used in foot-tourneys at the barriers. Two-piece rounded skull overlapped and riveted along the low, obliquely-incised comb. This is transversely pierced at the rear to secure the plume. At the base of the comb is a plain, tubular associated plume-holder secured with two fluted rivets. Along the basal edge of the skull are two parallel rows of iron rivets (two retaining traces of brass caps); the upper row once retained the liner, the lower row secures the rear half of the embossed race which encircled the upper lame of the collar. Eight additional flush iron rivets (with traces of leather) border the skull anterior edge, slightly cusped at the sides. The decoration of the skull includes a full-length incised line on either side of the comb base, and another inner set along the skull. The bevor has a squarish chin, embossed at its rear sides like the lower edge of the skull. At the anterior, this is bordered with a single incised line, above which is a single row of seven flush iron rivets. The facial opening edge is inwardly-turned and roped at a later date, in turn bordered with six flush iron rivets. The posterior vertical edge of the bevor is bordered with a closely set pair of parallel incised lines, later refreshed. At the basal rear edge the bevor is fitted with a set of hinges (right is a restoration) each attahed with a single, fluted rivet, and secured to turning-pins on the skull. The visor-support above the right hinge is also restored, and associated to th present visor and upper bevor. The associated upper-bevor extends down sharply from the modern visor-pivots and rosettes. The upper edge is slightly upturned, and puckered near the occularia. The edge below is slightly cusped at this point, and bevelled. The profile is very near vertical, with a sharp medial line. The right face is pierced with nine circular breaths in a circular pattern with incised lines radiating from the central hole. At the upper edge directly above is a vertical, punched set of two holes, both empty (these would have been used to rivet the visor sections together). A wing-screw with "fishtail" terminals passes through the enlarged hole on the bevor below, locking the upper-bevor closed. The incised decoration along the edges of the upper-bevor are en suite with the bevor, but seem to be true here. In fact, they pass off of the upper edge of the upper-bevor near the mid-front of the sights; this indicates that the upper-bevor has been cut back here to accommodate the assembly with the other components. The associated visor has a deep, strong brow plate extending nearly to the mid-depth of the helmet. The comb is embossed like that of the skull, and generally similarly decorated. The posterior medial point and base of the comb are sharply cusped. At its anterior the comb is elliptical, and develops a defined medial ridge extending down across the extension that forms the divided single row occularia. The sights are plain, without a step, the edge below roughly finished, and pierced at the right for the securing-rivet (lacking). Skull altered from an old, non-tournament component. Skull executed from 2 halves. Visor doesn't quite fit skull--probably the cause of some fracturing at the apex. Visor sights show signs of rework, perhaps in making it all fit. Upper bevor looks basically good, if tweaked by restorers. Upper bevor doesn't quite align to lower bevor. Something is definitely odd about the lower bevor. There is odd damage at the chin, and the rotation groove doesn't continue under the chin. Markings on the skull and foreparts could be deliberate. The lower edge of the skull is a separate piece patched in, and probably restored. Screw for securing the visor down is a later addition.

Curator's Comments

The helmet shown is not that as purchased by Mr. Higgins. Italian, probably Milanese, comprehensively 1600-1605, form used in foot-tourneys at barriers. 2-piece rounded skull with roped comb. Plume holder. While the helmet seems to be a modern composite, the overall form is correct for its role. It may be compared to several homogenous examples, such as two by Pompeo della Chiesa (or Cesa), one from a garniture of Carlo Emanuele I Duke of Saxony, ca. 1602 (See Mazzini) and another of ca. 1592 (see Collura); also one by the master "IO" for archduke Ferdinand of Austria, ca. 1600 at Vienna (See Boccia, Lombarde), and Cosimo II (poss. Florentine, master unknown), ca. 1605 at Detroit (see Boccia, "Medici Court").


Cf. Puype and Stevens 2010: 46 ff.
Cf. to Boccia 1975 #19 (pl. 23), #50 (pl. 50).

Publication & Exhibit History

Depicted as plate V, lot 123 of the de Cosson sale (1929). Possibly also visible in a photo of the de Cosson collection, see de Cosson file.


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