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A Casalucci

Joined: 14 Dec 2012

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PostPosted: Wed 21 Aug, 2013 12:20 pm    Post subject: Helms, decorations and materials XIII century         Reply with quote

Looking at some images of the Maciejowsky bible, I noticed the use of "colours" in decoration of part of the helms. Are those decoration painted? Or maybe some pieces like the cruciform reinforce of some helmets could have been made in other materials like brass or bronze? There are also some "golden" helmet depicted. I doubt it could really gold, but I doubt also it could be simply painted. Are there any chances of helm made in materials differents from iron? Brass, bronze, etc? Not necessarily functionals, but maybe only for ornamental purpose, like those heavily decorated but more recent armors of the nobles?
I know that structurally simple iron is better than those materials, so, I'm not asking this!

Are there any references or evidence of such military or pseudo military objects?
thank you.
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Mart Shearer

Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Wed 21 Aug, 2013 1:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's gold leaf and "shell gold" paint. There's the 15th century gilt-copper chapel of Charles VI

And we know the 38 helmets made for the Tournament at Windsor Park in 1278 were made of leather covered with gold or silver leaf depending on the rank of the participant, so there's a 13th century precedent.

So helmets could be made of alternate materials if they weren't intended for war.

Painting over iron is quite likely the explanation for the more exquisite heraldic décor on helms from the 13th century.

The 1344 inventory of the English wardrobe lists
lxij galeas quarum vj pro torniamento, iij cum barberis pro hastiludo, j depicta de veteribus armis Anglie et lij pro guerra
(62 helms of which 6 for the tournament, 3 with "beards" for jousting, 1 painted with the old arms of England, and 52 for war.)

Given those the idea of a red or green painted helm seems pretty mild. We have literary evidence describing colored helms from the 12th century such as Bertran de Born's reference from Be¡m platz lo gais temps de pascor:
Massas e brans, elms de color
(Maces and swords, colored helms)
Or mentions in the chanson Aliscans
Puis a lacie' le vert elme geme'
(Then laced the green helm with gems).
Then there's the surviving 14th century Kornburg helm, which was repainted with it's gold cross; however, evidence of earlier paint is still there too.;f=false
The painting visible today probably dates
from 1626, when the piece was used as a funeral
helm. In the areas where the paint has chipped
off, there are traces of earlier paint, which indi-
cates that the helm was once black with a zigzag
edging of gold around the bottom. It cannot be
determined whether or not the latter was the
original paint.

And there's a surviving black sallet that's painted dating to the 15th century, so it's certainly one possible technique for getting a colored helm. But we also know that 14th century bascinets were sometimes covered in leather, so it's impossible to say that all colored helms were painted rather than covered in leather or fabric.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Sean Flynt

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PostPosted: Wed 21 Aug, 2013 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

some ancient helmets were bronze, of course. but, yes, medieval helmets had fire gilding and applique, fabric and leather coverings, paint and, I would guess, also a gold paint commonly known as shell gold, which is simply gold dust in a suspension (think manuscript illumination). shell gold would not be as durable as fire gilding, but much easier (and safer) to work with in a variety of media (paper, leather, fabric, metal, wood, etc.)

Author of the Little Hammer novel
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