This helmet is an outstanding example of parade armor made in northern Germany for the court of Duke Heinrich the Younger of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (r. 1514–68) and his son Julius (r. 1568–89). Characteristic of the Brunswick school is the prominent and finely etched figural decoration, with historical, mythological, and biblical subjects.
The etching on this morion is exceptionally accomplished and includes (on the raised comb) portrait medallions of Alexander the Great and Antonia Sabina Augusta, wife of the Roman emperor Hadrian. The classical subjects, complex design, and horror vacui typify the northern Mannerist aesthetic. The decoration on the left side includes a shield emblazoned with three small shields—the emblem of the guild of Saint Luke, the painter's guild to which many etchers belonged. The quality and originality of the etching suggest that this helmet may have been the artist's "masterpiece," submitted to the guild by the etcher as proof that he had attained sufficient skill to be designated a master of his craft.
Ex colls.: [B. Kuntz, Vienna]; Stephen V. Grancsay, Brooklyn; John F. Hayward, London; David G. Alexander, Puycelsi, France
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Helmets 1450–1650: Treasures from the Reserve Collection," January 25, 2000–May 13, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.
Grancsay, Stephen V. Loan Exhibition of European Arms and Armor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, August 3 to September 27, 1931. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1931. p. 29, no. 90, ill.
Allentown Art Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and John Woodman Higgins Armory. Arms and Armor: March 15–June 14, 1964: A Loan Exhibition from the Collection of Stephen V. Grancsay, with Important Contributions by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the John Woodman Higgins Armory, Worcester, Massachusetts. Allentown, Pa.: Allentown Art Museum, 1964. p. 40, no. 59.
Hayward, John F. Arms and Armour. London: Sotheby's, London, November 1, 1983. lot 26, ill.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1998-1999." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57, no. 2 (Fall 1999). p. 28, ill.
Pyhrr, Stuart W. European Helmets, 1450–1650: Treasures from the Reserve Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. pp. 4, 31, no. 48, ill.
Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. La Rocca, and Morihiro Ogawa. Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 1991–2002. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 14–15, no. 8, ill. and fig. 4 (detail).