CLOSE HELMET FOR A CUIRASSIER CA. 1615-1620

$3,500.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 766-926

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A nice example of the close helmet worn by cuirassiers to about 1650. Armored cavalry had discarded the lance as their principle weapon in the 1500s and come to rely upon a pair of long-barreled wheelock pistols, a sword, and occasionally a warhammer. Armor changed as well. Being bullet proof was a necessity, and heavy cavalry cuirassiers compensated for the weight by wearing three-quarter length suits with long tassets for the upper leg, and just boots for the lower, but they retained helmets offering full coverage.

This is a good example of a munition quality helmet for a fighting man. The bowl is a two-piece construction made of rolled steel, which is acceptable by this period. The bowl is formed with a median ridge and the two sections are lapped at the front brow. Visor, ventail and bevor all move on the same pivot at each temple as is correct for a close helmet. The visor has a slightly pointed brow with a rounded, rolled edge. The ventail has a vertical central ridge and is pierced on either side with twenty-one breathing holes configured as a triangle. A small loop on the lower right serves to hold it closed by engaging a swivel hook fixed on the lower portion of the bevor. The upper edge of the ventail is rolled along the cutouts for the eyes. There is short, pointed nasal rising at the center. The nasal shows a slight bend and a split that extends down a very short way along the median ridge. A decorative incised line runs along the lower edge of the ventail and at the sides of the upper edge, ending at the cutout on either side. On each side the upper end of the ventail is riveted to a separate piece pierced for the pivot. This could be a simple repair or an attempt dress up an otherwise very functional piece of armor by imitating the hinged cheek pieces of an armet, something that might be suggested by the notched heads of the pivots as well. Like the ventail, the bevor has a rolled edge around the opening for the face. It is fitted with two lames for neck protection that are flexibly attached by rivets, as are two matching lames at the bottom rear of the helmet bowl.

Both helmet bowl and bevor have small rivets around their edges for the attachment of a helmet lining, now long gone of course. The lames show somewhat larger rivets and a couple of them retain parts of their washers. The rear of the helmet bowl still has its screw-fastened plume socket in place at its base. At the center of the rear lower lame, just above the line of rivets, is a small hole that likely served to hang up the helmet on a wall at some point.

The helmet has a very nice muted steel color with a smooth surface and scattered shallow pitting that shows just slightly gray, all from an old cleaning. The interior is darker, with some crustiness, mostly on the underside of the lames, but there are no weak spots. It is worth noting that a few close helmets even made their way to America during the period, but this helmet is an impressive example of early 17th century horseman’s armor in any case.  [sr]

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