The great weight of this extraordinary helmet and a related shield also in the Metropolitan Museums collection (04.3.260) (over thirteen pounds each) indicates that they were never intended to be worn. They must have served a purely decorative function, perhaps as part of an ornamental panoply of arms that graced some rich interior.
The bronze helmet bowl and shield were silvered and patinated to look like blued steel. Finely crafted ormolu (gilt bronze) mounts were cast separately and attached individually to them. The mounts are equal in quality to the best ormolu furniture mounts made in Paris around 1760, when Neoclassical design was superseding Rococo. Rather than the work of an armorer, this helmet and shield were probably designed by an artist and made by a craftsman or workshop that produced furniture mounts and other decorative bronze objects.
By the eighteenth century, the purpose of armor was chiefly symbolic. Armor based on Classical prototypes invoked the heroic qualities of ancient Greece and Rome. Representations of such armor were widely used in painting, the decorative arts, and the theater.
Ex coll.: M. Joyeau; Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, Duc de Dino,Paris
San Francisco. California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Loan Exhibition of Mediaeval and Renaissance Arms and Armor from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 18–June 7, 1953.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–February 14, 1971.
Bordeaux. Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux. "Profil du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York: De Ramses a Picasso," May 15–September 1, 1981.
Miami. Center for the Fine Arts. "In Quest of Excellence," January 12—April 22, 1984.
New Orleans. Louisiana State Museum. "The Sun King: Louis XIV and the New World," April 29–November 18, 1984.
Washington. Corcoran Gallery of Art. "The Sun King: Louis XIV and the New World," December 15, 1984–April 7, 1985.
Anonymous. collection, sale catalogue, January 27-28, 1845. Paris, Rue des jeuneurs, 16, 1845. no.113.
Joyeau, Sieur. collection, sale catalogue, December 5-8, 1849. Paris, Rue des Jeuneurs, 42, 1849. no. 90.
Cosson, Charles Alexander. Le Cabinet D'armes De Maurice De Talleyrand-Périgord, Duc De Dino. Paris: E. Rouveyre, 1901. p. 109, no. M.7, pl. 23.
Dean, Bashford, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Catalogue of European Arms and Armor. Metropolitan Museum of Art Handbook, Vol. 15. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1905. p. 116, fig. 53.
Laking, Guy Francis, Charles A. de Cosson, and Francis Henry Cripps-Day. A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries. Vol. IV. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1921. vol. IV, pp. 191–192, ill., fig. 1267.
Thomas, Bruno, Ortwin Gamber, and Hans Schedelmann. Die Schönsten Waffen und Rüstungen aus Europäischen und Amerikanischen Sammlungen. Heidelberg: Keysersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1963. no. 85, ill.
Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor from the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 49, no. 1 (Summer 1991). vol. 49, p. 33, ill.
Artist: Helmet includes original paper label of Hallé (French, Paris, active ca. 1780–1800)Date: ca. 1788–90Medium: Linen, papier-mâché, bole, gold leaf, graphite (helmet); silk, cotton, metal coils and spangles, metallic yarn (tunic)Accession: 1988.65.1–.2On view in:Gallery 376