Discussion of three types of sixteenth century helmets

These items illustrate the at times fuzzy lines between different types of helmets in the 16th c.The first three images show the "typical" form of three types of helmets. The burgonet, morion and cabasset.

A bugonet is usually a helmet with a brim and tail, a central comb and large cheek plates that cover a significant portion of the side of the face (item 1).

A morion is usually a helmet with a rounded skull, narrow brim which rises up to a high point at the front and back and a tall central comb (item 2).

A cabasset is usually a helmet with a bluntly pointed skull which has a narrow stalk at the apex and a narrow flat brim (item 3).

Things aren't always that simple. The 16h c. armourers didn't see any reason to fit neatly into the limits that we describe.

German Burgonet

German Burgonet late 16th century

One piece polished skull. High roped comb and integral brim. Separate neck lame and hinged cheek plates. Lower edge of the neck lame and cheek plates with inward-turned roped roll. Front edge of the cheek plates with simple turned in border. Cheek plates pierced with 5 holes over the ears in dice formation. Edges of the cheek plates and neck lame beveled. Nuremberg guild mark on the brim near the center. Right cheek plate stamped with Solothurn arsenal inventory numbers x 126. This helmet retains its original plume holder. Hinges appear to be original. Most remaining rivets appear to be original. The rivets that secure the leather loops at the chin of the cheek plates are replaced (as is the leather). The finish shows signs of areas that have rusted and it has been cleaned, but many parts of the surface show signs of the type of scratches that are typical of old munition polished surfaces. Similar, even more aggressive marks can be seen on the munions A-292 in this collection. Provenance: Bischoff Collection, Vienna. [inv. num. A-5]




Morion

Morion circa 1580

Made in Northern Italy. Finely formed in one piece with a hight roped comb and swept brim. The comb is broad at the base, tapering to a rounded top. The top of the crest is roped and there is an engraved line parallel to the top of the comb. The transition from the comb to bowl is accentuated with an engraved line at the crease and an additional engraved parallel line on the bowl. The edge of the brim is bordered by an inward-turned roped roll over wire and a narrow recess. It is uncommon in that it retains its original blued finish. The original finish covers a smooth finish over most of the surface with signs of file marks near the points of the skull and comb which would have been difficult to access with polishing wheels. The base of the skull with a row of iron lining rivets with decorative brass washers on the outside and small iron washers and remains of a cloth lining strap on the inside. This is a fine example of a group of morions and cabassets sold by Fenton and Sons of 11 New Oxford Street, London between the 2 world wars. There are some small delaminations in the comb and some cracks in the brim.

Measurements: 11 in. tall, 13 1/2 in. from front to back point of the brim, 7 1/8 in. wide inside the bowl and 8 7/8 in. wide at the outside of the brim. [inv. num. A-184]




Cabasset

Cabasset circa 1590-1610

Etched in the 'Pisan' fashion. Cabasset of good form. Narrow brim with rolled and recessed border. Most original brass capped steel rivets with decorative washers. Some cloth lining band remaining between a few rivets. Point with a nice stalk, bent over to the back. Etched with 6 bands of trophies. Each side decorated with a central panel containing an armoured figure in antique style flanked by angels. Displayed with Allen item number A-102. [inv. num. A-102-a]




Burgonets

Items 4, 5, 6 and 7 are all called burgonets. Item number 4 is the "typical" shape. Item number 5 still has a similar brim, tail and cheek plate, but the skull rises to a point (in this case with an acorn on top). Item number 6 has an overall shape that is a lot more similar to a morion than normal and the cheek plate has degenerated to a very small size. These can be made in two pieces and these are very similar to morions. Item number 7 has a brim, tail and cheek plates like all other burgonets, but the skull has the typical cabasset form.

German Burgonet

German Burgonet late 16th century

One piece polished skull. High roped comb and integral brim. Separate neck lame and hinged cheek plates. Lower edge of the neck lame and cheek plates with inward-turned roped roll. Front edge of the cheek plates with simple turned in border. Cheek plates pierced with 5 holes over the ears in dice formation. Edges of the cheek plates and neck lame beveled. Nuremberg guild mark on the brim near the center. Right cheek plate stamped with Solothurn arsenal inventory numbers x 126. This helmet retains its original plume holder. Hinges appear to be original. Most remaining rivets appear to be original. The rivets that secure the leather loops at the chin of the cheek plates are replaced (as is the leather). The finish shows signs of areas that have rusted and it has been cleaned, but many parts of the surface show signs of the type of scratches that are typical of old munition polished surfaces. Similar, even more aggressive marks can be seen on the munions A-292 in this collection. Provenance: Bischoff Collection, Vienna. [inv. num. A-5]




Burgonet

Burgonet circa 1550-70

One piece skull boxed in four panels and rising to a point with an acorn finial. Integral brim, separate neck lame, two cheek plates (left associated, probably from the same original arsenal and from a similarly decorated, but slightly different helmet). Main edges with roped inward turns and recessed borders. The helmet decorated with four raised bands that continue onto the neck guard and peak. The edge of the peak, neck lame and cheek plates decorated with inward turned roped rolls. Formerly black and white. Cleaned. Black areas reblackened with paint to simulate original appearance. [inv. num. A-256]




Burgonet

Burgonet circa 1580-90

Burgonet. 2 piece skull with origninally smooth surface. Extremely high, rear-swept comb. Pointed brim and tail integral to the bowl, each with rolled, roped and recessed borders. Small, original cheek plates with rolled, roped and recessed borders. The form of the bowl is remeniscent of morions at the time with aggressively pointed brow and neck. Shows signs of significant pitting and later cleaning. Rivets and decorative washers replaced. There seem to be some signs of likely original deep scratches from the cleanup of the piece at the back next to the crease and at the base of the comb.

Weight: 3 pounds 5.2 ounces (1510g). Thickness generally .030-040, some areas a little thicker. [inv. num. A-105]




Burgonet

Burgonet circa 1580

Tall form with nice stalk. Integral brim and tail. Surface rough from the hammer. Edge of brim and tail with nice inward turned roped rolls bordered by a narrow recess. Sides engraved with stylized Fleur de Lys. Point and brim with additional fleur decoration. Sides with small cheek plates wth rolled and recessed borders (restored). Skull with line of copper alloy capped iron rivets at the brim and tail for securing a lining strap. Small copper alloy plume holder at the back. A nice example of an interesting form of burgonet. The Poldi Pezzoli museum has several of these (numbers 71-92 in the catalogue Armi e armature Museo Poldi Pezzoli of which two are illustrated on page 35). [inv. num. A-305]




Morions

Items 8, 9 and 10 all may be called morions. Item number 8 is the typical form. Item number 9 has a much flatter brim which is much more similar to earlier "war hats". Item number 10 can be called a morion, a cabasset or a "Spanish morion" depending on who writes the description.

Morion

Morion circa 1580

Made in Northern Italy. Finely formed in one piece with a hight roped comb and swept brim. The comb is broad at the base, tapering to a rounded top. The top of the crest is roped and there is an engraved line parallel to the top of the comb. The transition from the comb to bowl is accentuated with an engraved line at the crease and an additional engraved parallel line on the bowl. The edge of the brim is bordered by an inward-turned roped roll over wire and a narrow recess. It is uncommon in that it retains its original blued finish. The original finish covers a smooth finish over most of the surface with signs of file marks near the points of the skull and comb which would have been difficult to access with polishing wheels. The base of the skull with a row of iron lining rivets with decorative brass washers on the outside and small iron washers and remains of a cloth lining strap on the inside. This is a fine example of a group of morions and cabassets sold by Fenton and Sons of 11 New Oxford Street, London between the 2 world wars. There are some small delaminations in the comb and some cracks in the brim.

Measurements: 11 in. tall, 13 1/2 in. from front to back point of the brim, 7 1/8 in. wide inside the bowl and 8 7/8 in. wide at the outside of the brim. [inv. num. A-184]




Morion

Morion circa 1570

One piece bowl rising to a high comb and extending to form a brim. The brim drawn out in the front and back to long points. Surface rough from the hammer and likely retaining some original finish. Eleven holes for lining rivets at the base of the skull. Ten retain rivets and nine retain large decorative pewter rosette washers. The comb is roped. The edge of the brim is formed into a narrow inward, roped turn. This is a somewhat transitional form between earlier chapel de fer and the typical late 16th c. morion. The most obvious feature of this transitional form is that the transition between the skull and brim sweeps instead of being angular. There is a delamination in the skull. The comb and edge of the skull are lightly roped. The comb has a small dent at the top.

Measurements: Weight 2 pounds 5.2 ounces (1050g). Thickness measured in the lower half of the bowl and brim varies .030-.050 in. [inv. num. A-303]




Morion Cabasset

Morion Cabasset circa 1580

Skull formed of one piece rising to a fine point at the top. Brim pointed front and back and rising to elegant points. The edge of the brim borded by a small plain inward turned roll (over wire) bordered by a narrow recess. Retains lining rivets and a copper alloy plume holder. Lining rivets with domed heads on the outside capped with dapped copper alloy disks each with decorative rosette washers (two missing). [inv. num. A-323]




Cabassets

Items 10 (above), 11 and 12 may all be called cabassets. Item number 11 is the typical form. Item number 10 has a brim like a morion, so it is often classified as one. Item number 11 still has the narrow flat brim but it has a skull which does not have a central bent over stalk.

Cabasset

Cabasset circa 1590-1610

Etched in the 'Pisan' fashion. Cabasset of good form. Narrow brim with rolled and recessed border. Most original brass capped steel rivets with decorative washers. Some cloth lining band remaining between a few rivets. Point with a nice stalk, bent over to the back. Etched with 6 bands of trophies. Each side decorated with a central panel containing an armoured figure in antique style flanked by angels. Displayed with Allen item number A-102. [inv. num. A-102-a]




Cabasset

Cabasset circa 1600

German. One piece skull of rounded almond shape with narrow flat integral brim coming to an obtuse point at the front and back. The edge of the brim formed with a simple inward turn. Retains two cheek plates and interior leather band. One cheek plate detatched at one side. Parts of the band torn though at the rivets. Cheek plates are small and nearly flat. Black, rough from the hammer surface. [inv. num. A-288]




All of these items are taken from the Allen collection. There are a few additional types that blur the lines even more. When these were new the morions and cabassets would have had cheek plates (sometimes larger and formed of multiple plates, sometimes smaller and a single plate). This further blends the forms, esp. when we include the burgonet styles with multi-plate cheek plates.