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Home > Auctions > 5th February 2014 > Dark Age Burgundian Iron Helmet with Aventail

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LOT 0846

GBP (£) 10,000 - 15,000
EUR (€) 11,850 - 17,780
USD ($) 12,760 - 19,140

18 1/4" (5.5 kg including stand, 46.5 cm from tip of helmet to bottom of chain mail).

A Burgundian helmet (Spangenhelm or Baldenhelm), of domed form with conical crest at the pole and four bands at the cardinal points with trefoil terminals; the whole with possibly later mail aventail attached.

Property of a European gentleman living in London; acquired by inheritance in 1963.

There are a number of surviving examples of this rare type of helmet. The general type is diligently described in: O. Gamber, Die frumittelalterlichen Spangelhelm, in Zeitschrift Waffen- und Kostumkunde [24] 1982, pp.81ff. See also: Matthias Pfaffenbicher, Spangenhelme in Attila und die Hunnen - Historischen Museum der Pfalz Speyer, 2007, pp.245-251. This general type of helmet was obviously widely distributed. The design of these helmets is derived from Italy with influences from as far away as Sassanian Persia and the Byzantine Empire. They were imitated in Merovingian France. The Italian source of design is confirmed by the coins of the Ostrogothic King Theodahad (534-536) where the ruler is shown wearing just such a helm (Philip Grierson and Mark Blackburn, Medieval European Coinage I: The Early Middle Ages (5th-10th centuries) Cambridge, 1986. Nos. 141-3).
It is clear that these prestigious helmets conferred high social status on the wearer, and their wide distribution demonstrates the international nature of this military élite. So treasured were they that they were often buried with their wearers.
The most similar to the present example is one found at Marais de Sant Didier, north-east of Vezeronce (Isère, France) in 1871. Here there was a battle between the Burgundians and the Franks in 524 AD. This example now graces the Musée departmental dauphinois, Grenoble (inventory No. D.67.3.257). Exhibition: Byzance - Louvre, Paris, 1992. No.74. So similar is this one to the present example that it is tempting to assume that they come from the same workshop and, more speculatively, were lost in the same conflict.