Please complete the form to email this item.

Burgonet

  • Place of origin:

    Milan, Italy (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1575 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Piccinino, Lucio (possibly, maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Iron, embossed and damascened with gold

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by D. M. Currie

  • Museum number:

    M.189-1921

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval and Renaissance, room 62, case 19

  • Download image

A burgonet is a lightweight helmet with a peak, tall comb and hinged cheek-pieces. It first appeared in Italy in the early 16th century. and was worn by both cavalry and infantry. This burgonet is remarkable for the richness and variety of its decoration, something for which the armourers of Milan were renowned. The peak, comb and neck-guard are covered with magnificent chased and damascened (inlaid gold) ornament that includes a seated warrior and figures of Fame and Victory.

The decoration is in the style of the workshop of Lucio Piccinino (born around 1535, active around 1570-1589) of Milan. Piccinino was an armour embosser and damascener. He had, claimed Paolo Morigia in his La Nobilita' di Milano, published in 1595, “in his ornamentation of iron in relief with figures, animals and grotesque masks, etc., and likewise in his damascened work, produced masterpieces which are among the most choice and precious.”

The embossing has stretched and thinned the metal surface (some cracks are evident). The lavish decoration and the thinness of the metal suggest the helmet was probably a parade helmet which, when set with plumes from the plume holder, would have created a spectacular display as part of a matching suit of armour.

Of all the possessions of the sixteenth century nobleman, none spoke more powerfully of his honour, wealth and status than his armour. The helmet was one of the main components in defensive armour, protecting the most important and most vulnerable part of the body. Helmets for tournaments and parades were decorated according to the latest fashion and their cost made them the preserve only of the very wealthy.

During the mid-16th century a new fashion emerged in Europe for arms and armour based on the forms found in classical art. High relief embossing and rich gold damascening decorated parade armour alla romana antica (in the ancient roman style).

Physical description

Burgonet, or light helmet with a peak, high ridge and cheek-pieces (French 'bourguinotte'), of embossed iron, damascnened with gold. It has a high comb (ridge), pointed umbril (like the peak of a cap) and hinged ear-pieces. The skull is decorated with 2 large oval medallions: on the left with a warrior seated on a reclining satyr embraced by a female figure with a shield in her left arm and a dart in her right hand, another satyr behind; on the right, a figure of Mercury hold a viola with her right hand and with her left placing a wreath on the head of a woman seated on the back of a satyr whose chain she holds. In front of the medallions over the peak of the helmet are draped figures of Fame and Victory. Behind at the base of the comb is s double plume-holder in the form of a shield supported by 2 children. The comb has a roped edge and 3 medallions on each side, the centre with a seated cupid and the others with nude female figures of Cupid with a bow and a torch.

Place of Origin

Milan, Italy (made)

Date

ca. 1575 (made)

Artist/maker

Piccinino, Lucio (possibly, maker)

Materials and Techniques

Iron, embossed and damascened with gold

Dimensions

Height: 30.5 cm, Width: 22.6 cm, Depth: 36.5 cm, Weight: 1.78 kg

Object history note

The burgonet (French bourguinotte), a lightweight helmet with a peak, tall comb and cheek-pieces, first appeared in Italy in the early 16th century. Subsequently its use spread to Spain, France and Germany. Burgonets were worn by both cavalry and infantry.

This burgonet is remarkable for the richness and variety of its decoration, something for which the armourers of Milan were renowned. The peak, comb and neck-guard are covered with magnificent chased and damascened (inlaid gold) ornament that includes a seated warrior and figures of Fame and Victory.

The decoration is in the style of the workshop of Lucio Piccinino (born around 1535, active around 1570-1589) of Milan. The embossing has stretched and thinned the metal surface (some cracks are evident). The lavish decoration and the thinness of the metal suggest the helmet was solely a parade helmet, rather than a protective battle helmet, which, when set with plumes from the plume holder, would have created a spectacular display as part of a matching suit of armour.

The provenance of the helmet is unknown prior to the mid 19th century. In 1862 it was on loan to the South Kensington Museum (V&A) and in 1899 it was sold at the Forman Collection sale (Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, 19-22 June, 2-5 July), where it was bought by Mr David M. Currie. He bequeathed it to the Museum in 1921.

Historical significance: The significance of this bugonet lies in that it may have come from one of the most famous workshops, that of Lucio Piccinino (active 1570-89) in one of the great armour producing centres of Europe, Milan. The manufacture of arms and armour was for centuries Milan's most famous export. The industry in Milan was centred on a few workshops run by families specialising in armour of great beauty and artistic skill for a wealthy, aristocratic market. Along with Missaglia, the Negroli, Giovan Battista Zarabaglia and Pompeo della Cesa, Lucio Piccinino was the most important.

Lucio Piccinino was an armour embosser and damascener. He had, claimed Paolo Morigia in his La Nobilita' di Milano published in 1595 “in his ornamentation of iron in relief with figures, animals and grotesque masks, etc., and likewise in his damascened work, produced masterpieces which are among the most choice and precious.” Piccinino made armour for princes and kings including a parade armour for Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (1545 – 1592), now in the Kunsthistorischesmuseum in Vienna.

Historical context note

Of all the possessions of the sixteenth century nobleman, none spoke more powerfully of his honour, wealth and status than his armour.

The helmet was one of the main components in defensive armour, protecting the most important and most vulnerable part of the body. It was vital to both the foot-soldier and the aristocratic knight. Helmets for tournaments and parades were decorated according to the latest fashion and their cost made them the preserve only of the very wealthy.

During the mid-16th century a new fashion emerged in Europe for arms and armour based on the forms found in classical art. High relief embossing and rich gold damascening decorated parade armour alla romana antica (in the ancient roman style). Armour was commissioned by Renaissance kings and noblemen who projected their power and status by portraying themselves as figures from classical mythology. This example is a vituoso piece of Renaissance 'antique' armour.

Descriptive line

Burgonet, iron, embossed and damascened with gold, possibly by Lucio Piccinino, Milan, around 1575

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hayward, J. F., European Armour. HMSO, London, 1951, cat. 22, p. 21, illus. p. 48
Grosz, August, "Vorlagen der Werkstätte des Lucio Piccinino", Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, Band, XXXVI, Cat. 4
Cripps-Day, Francis Henry, "Forman Sale (Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge) 19-22 June, 2-5 July 1899", A Record of Armour Sales 1881-1924, G. Bell and Sons, London, 1925, p. 121, Cat. 530
Laking, Sir Guy Francis, A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries, G. Bell and Sons, London 1921, p.159-161, Fig. 1240
Laking states: "It is certainly the work of Lucio Picinino [sic]"
Pyhrr, Stuart W. and Godoy, Jose-A., Heroic Armor of the Italian Renaissance: Filippo Negroli and his Contemporaries, Exhibition Catalogue, 08 October 1998 - 17 Januray 1999, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, passim.
General history of Milanese armourers with references to Lucio Piccinino
Grancsay, S.V., "Lucio Piccinino, Master Armourer of the Renaissance", Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, April 1964, pp. 519-536

Exhibition History

Special Loan Collection (South Kensington Museum 01/01/1862-31/12/1862)

Labels and date

V&A Arms and Armour Galleries (Decanted 2002):
HELMET
Iron embossed and damascened with gold
MILANESE; about 1575
M.189-1921
D.M.Currie Bequest
Perhaps from the workshop of Lucio Piccinino [01/01/2002]

Materials

Gold; Iron

Techniques

Embossing; Damascening

Subjects depicted

Victory; Fame

Categories

Metalwork; Ceremonial objects; Arms & Armour; Fashion; Accessories; Hats & headwear

Collection code

MET

Download image
Qr_O97505
Ajax-loader