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Maximilian helmet

German master armorer

Germany - XVI th century

Material: Forged iron

Size: cm 30 x 30 x 16

review by gherardo turchi

This helmet is a rare and precious “Maximilian” helmet in forged iron, made in one of those flourishing workshops of master armorers active in Germany during the sixteenth century.

The Maximilian name dates back to emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg, whose gothic armor, made by master armorer Lorenz Helmschmied, was the archetype for the following development of gentlemen armors in the Renaissance era.

Another source would, on the other hand, bind its name to Emperor Maximilian II of Habsburg, the last great client of a “grooved armor” at a time when the parade armor was following the dictates of Italian armorers and no more the German ones. 

Maximilian, who was a great reformer of the German war art, appreciated the efficacy of the gothic steel armor typical of the imperial cavalry; he had fought as an infantry soldier with Lansquenets created by him, being aware of the importance of heavy infantry forces as an element of victory in the battlefield.

He is regarded as the inventor of a new line of armors called “more germanorum” which, for some decades, prevailed over the success of European armors with “italic” plates.

These were armors expressly dedicated to combating on foot and not only on horseback; they were lightened, both through special technical measures and after eliminating certain excessive components, such as large volutes on the elbow pieces or the thigh pieces. They were always suited, in any case,  to those principles of aesthetic taste encoded by the gothic armor, that had laid the foundation for the dichotomy of armor as a “second skin for the gentleman”.

Maximilian I did not, however, make a revolution, but he rather logically ended an already begun evolutionary process; the real Maximilian armor was, in effect, encoded during the second decade of the sixteenth century, when Gothic armors with a lighter and more functional line were already in production.

This helmet belongs to the production of so-called “Maximilian” defensive suits. Certainly part of a complete armor dismembered over the centuries, this helmet got all the main dictates typical of sixteenth-century German production. With a skull made in a single piece, it has a ventail with four grooves and a rhomboidal section fixed by two forged iron rosettas.

Its throat has a cord-like decoration that shows its outline, while rivets with brass-covered heads decorate the entire work.

We could make stylistic comparisons between this work and other helmets in great international museums, such as the Luigi Marzoli public collection in Brescia or the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw, where works similar to this one are duly catalogued and published.

This helmet is in an excellent state of conservation and is an important addition to the catalog of German helmets of the sixteenth century.

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