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LOT 0458

GBP (£) 6,000 - 8,000
EUR (€) 6,970 - 9,300
USD ($) 7,690 - 10,260

Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £6,000
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Medieval German Great Helm

Circa 1300 AD

A German great helm in a poor state of preservation, but still visible in its original shape without deformation; composed of five rivetted plates: two forming the top, two the front, and one the back; the top of the helmet is convex; the visual system is divided into two, and on both left and right parts, are distributed the various holes forming the ventilation system. 1.4 kg, 25.6cm (20"). Fair condition. Extremely rare.

Condition report [Click to show]

From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market in the 1980s, and thence by descent; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

See Demmin A. Die Kriegswaffen in ihren geschichtlichen Entwicklungen von den ältesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart. Eine Encyklopädie der Waffenkunde, Gera-Untermhaus, 1891; Müller-Hickler H., 'Über die Funde aus der Burg Tannenberg', ZfHW XIII, in Neue Folge 4, 1934, pp.175-181; Žákovský P., Hošek J., Cisár V., A unique finding of a great helm from the Dalečín castle in Moravia, in Acta Militaria Medievalia, VIII, 2011, pp.91-125; Gamber O., Geschichte der mittelalterlichen Waffen (Teil 4), in Waffen- und Kostümkunde 37, pp.1-26; Scalini, M., A bon droyt, Spade di uomini liberi, cavalieri e Santi/Epées d'hommes libres, chevaliers et saints, Milano, 2007.

According to the current knowledge, great helms began to generally appear in the arsenal of western medieval warriors in Western Europe as early as the beginning of the 12th century (Žákovský, Hošek, Cisár, 2011, p.91). It is not easy to understand which was the medieval word designating such category of helmets. The terms helmvaz and helmhuot, used for instance in the German epic Nibelungenlied, refer probably to large and closed helmets. Some authors therefore associate the origin of great helms with the German lands. The theory can be supported by the fact that most European languages adopted the term for this type of helmets from German helm or great helm in English; heaume in French; elmo in Italian, and yelmo in Spanish (s. Demmin, 1891, pp.492-493; Müller-Hickler 1934, p.179; Gamber, 1995, p.19). In sources written in Czech, the candidate terms referring to great helms seem to be přilbice and the derivative of the German word, helm. The typological evolution of the 14th century in Germany, takes the name of kübelhelm. The general development of great helms was starting in the early 13th century, based on round shapes with straight sides and a flat occipital plate with a distinct edge. They are known, because of the preserved beautiful aquamaniles (Scalini, 2007, pp.132-133, Aquamaniles from Lower Saxony, about 1300 AD; Žákovský, Hošek, Cisár, 2011, p.95, fig.4).

The subsequent development involved larger helms of oval cross-section with a distinctive edge. These helms reached to the shoulders of the wearer and the top was already convex. The helmet here represented should be added to the few survivingv specimens, as it is a good parallel with the great helm from the castle of Tannenberg, dated at the second half of the 15th century. The ventilation system, however, is more similar to the helmet from Dalecin (Žákovský, Hošek, Cisár, 2011, fig.5, p 95, 7, p.97), recently published by Bohemian archaeologists and discovered in 2008 by accident. The top of the helmet is similar to the helmet of Altena (Žákovský, Hošek, Cisár, 2011, p.110, fig.18b). These great helms of traditional design, and especially those with a convex top, whether of five, four or three plates, are in general believed to have been manufactured in Germany, although any direct evidence is missing (see Boeheim 1890, 29; Pierzak 2005, 31). Žákovský, Hošek, Cisár believe that the current state of knowledge is not sufficient for determining even the approximate location of their origin. The possibility that some of the known helms were manufactured close to where they were found, cannot be ruled out either. Moreover, it is not likely that the design patterns and details can be used to date the individual specimens at the moment. This is mainly due to the fact that only a small number of great helms have been recorded so far and that most iconographic sources, which could be useful in making the dating estimates, and our knowledge of great helm development more accurate, are rather simplified or the important upper parts of the depicted helms are covered with mantling and jewels.

Most probably our specimen is from a castle excavation. The piece is in fair condition and considering the rarity, a high start price can be expected. These helmets are generally thought to be dressed over the chain mail of the hauberk, and supported inside by an internal padding called 'padiglione' in Italian. An example from Tannenberg was unfortunately destroyed during the First World War. The find is quoted, but not illustrated by Demmin (1869, p.276, n.54) who states 'Deutsche Kesselhaube vom Ende des 13. Jahrhunderts, unter dem Schutte des im 14. Jahrhundert eingeäscherten Schlosses Tannenburg gefunden, von welchem Hefner v. Alteneck eine Abbildung herausgegeben hat' meaning: 'German great helm of late 13th century, found under the rubble of the 14th century cremated castle Tannenburg, of which Hefner Von Altenek has an illustration'). For the weight and the encumbrance of such big helmets were worn only in the imminence of the battle, leaving it, when not in use, suspended by a breast chain fixed on the front but hanging behind the shoulders. In the Tannenberg specimen there is still a small cross-shaped opening on the left side of the frontal part of the helmet, used to allow the passage of a small attachment for the chain which fastened the helmet to the breast part of the armour. The main elements of the knight's protection were helmet, shield and armour, and when the helmet was not necessary and limited the view, was put away. Sometimes, as visible on the splendid Manesse Codex, the helmets were surmounted by a decorative plume or crest, made of organic material like parchment, cuir bouilli, papier-mache, wood or copper sheet.

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Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £6,000

Lot No. 0458

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Auction Venue:
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Viewing from noon Monday 25th November 2019
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Tuesday 26th November 2019 (Day 1)
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