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Hat badge

  • Place of origin:

    England (possibly, made)
    Italy (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1530-1540 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, embossed and chased

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, case 5 []

Object Type
Renaissance hat badges had their origins in badges worn by pilgrims and soldiers, which were frequently made in base metals and mass-produced. When executed for the court, the finest hat badges became superb small-scale works of art. They displayed both the taste and interests of the wearer and the virtuosity of the goldsmith. This badge was probably made in an English workshop, because a number of other jewels resembling it in type have inscriptions in English.

Subjects Depicted
The badge shows an ancient Roman warrior, possibly an emperor, wearing armour and a lionskin, one of the attributes of the legendary hero Hercules who slew the Nemean lion. The head gazes out from a roundel, similar to those found on Roman triumphal arches. The subject shows the appeal of ancient Rome and Greece to the Renaissance mind.

History of Collecting
This jewel was purchased by the Museum for œ68 from the collection of Alessandro Castellani (1823-1883), the famous Italian jeweller and dealer in antiquities. His collection was sold in Rome in 1884. At the time the object was thought to be 'Ancient Roman', and was attached by chains to two small female heads and a winged putto (cherub).

Physical description

Gold hat badge embossed with a bust, perhaps of an emperor. Some damage around the edge particularly on the left side. The portrait represents a bearded Roman warrior wearing a lion's head helmet, which was also the attribute of Hercules. He is gazing out from a roundel, such as might be found on a Roman triumphal arch, known as an imago clipeata. These portrait roundels were also used in the Renaissance decorations carried out by Italian craftsmen at Hampton Court, which was then being built. It is framed by a band of scrollwork.

Place of Origin

England (possibly, made)
Italy (possibly, made)


1530-1540 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gold, embossed and chased


Diameter: 4.7 cm

Historical context note

Hat badges were originally worn by soldiers and pilgrims.

Descriptive line

Hat badge with a bust, possibly of an emperor, gold, England, 1530 - 1540.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Hat badges were traditionally worn by soldiers and pilgrims. Henry VIII's servants wore round hat badges with 'HR' on them. This costly example shows a Roman figure typical of fashionable Renaissance ornament. In 1521, life-size roundels showing Roman emperors were made in terracotta and stone for Hampton Court Palace. [27/03/2003]


Gold; Enamel

Subjects depicted

History; Clothing; Bust; Men; Roman; Emperors


Images Online; Jewellery; Metalwork; Sculpture; Royalty; British Galleries; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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