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Buffe

  • Place of origin:

    Milan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1590 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Piccinino, Lucio (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Steel, embossed, damascened with gold and silver, and rivetted

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by D. M. Currie

  • Museum number:

    M.111-1921

  • Gallery location:

    Ironwork, Room 114c, case 28

The Museum's Arms and Armour collection contains many fragments of suits of armour and weapons collected as works of art. This piece comes from a burgonet (French bourguinotte), a type of lightweight helmet with a peak, tall comb and cheek-pieces that first appeared in Italy in the early 16th century. Burgonets were worn by both cavalry and infantry.

This buffe is remarkable for the richness and variety of its decoration, something for which the armourers of Milan were renowned. It is covered with magnificent chased and damascened (inlaid gold) ornament that includes a flame, scrolls and strapwork. 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 lavish decoration and the thinness of the metal on the buffe suggest the burgonet was primarily 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 buffe, along with a number of other arms, was presented to Philip III by the Duke of Savoy in 1603, on the occasion of the visit to Spain of the Duke's three elder sons.

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.

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

Buffe or falling bevor, the frontal visor and neck protection from a burgonet, embossed and damascened with gold and silver in 4 plates rivetted together. The neckguard is embossed with cartouches (with bosses missing), the mouthguard with gilded flames, the middle guard with fruit and flowers, and a central cartouche, the eyeguard with vertical eye slits bent outwards for strength decorated with fine damascened arabesques, the rim striped. On the side are two hooks for attaching the buffe to a burgonet.

Place of Origin

Milan (made)

Date

ca. 1590 (made)

Artist/maker

Piccinino, Lucio (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Steel, embossed, damascened with gold and silver, and rivetted

Dimensions

Height: 19.3 cm, Width: 18 cm, Depth: 17 cm

Object history note

In his catalogue of the Madrid Armoury, the Conde de Valencia suggests that this buffe belonged to a burgonet (helmet) (A.292) in Madrid, which was part of an equestrian harness of Philip III made by Lucio Piccinino of Milan. This harness, along with a number of other arms, both European and oriental, was presented to Philip III by the Duke of Savoy in 1603, on the occasion of the visit to Spain of the Duke's three elder sons.

Many armours in the Royal Armoury in Madrid were broken and removed during the early 19th century. This buffe was sold from the Fountaine Collection by Christie, Manson and Woods on 16 June 1884 as 'Lot 557 Italian Falling Bevor'. 'A genuine piece ... CD' wrote Cripps-Day in 1925. It was later in the collection of Mr David M. Currie who bequeathed it to the Museum in 1921.

The Museum's Arms and Armour collection contains many fragments of suits of armour and weapons collected as works of art or virtuoso craftsmanship to be studied by design students. This piece comes from a burgonet (French bourguinotte), a type of lightweight helmet with a peak, tall comb and cheek-pieces that 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 buffe is remarkable for the richness and variety of its decoration, something for which the armourers of Milan were renowned. It is covered with magnificent chased and damascened (inlaid gold) ornament that includes a flame, scrolls and strapwork.

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. The lavish decoration and the thinness of the metal on the buffe suggest the burgonet was primarily 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.

Historical significance: The significance of this buffe 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.

The buffe's association with the Royal Armoury in Madrid, and the possibility that it was part of a suit presented in 1603 to Phillip III of Spain, put it in the top echelons of aristocratic patronage. The Spanish nobility, particularly the royal family were the best customers for the Italian armourers in the later 16th century and the decline of Spain as a force after 1600 seriously impacted on the armourers' markets.

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 fragment is a vituoso piece of Renaissance 'antique' armour.

Descriptive line

Frontal visor and neck protection from a burgonet, embossed and damascened with gold and silver, probably by Lucio Piccinino, Milan, ca.1585

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

Hayward, J. F., European Armour, London, 1965, p. 34
Valencia, Conde de, Catalogo de la Real Armeria, Madrid, 1898, pp. 97-100.
Grancsay, S.V., "Lucio Piccinino, Master Armourer of the Renaissance", Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, April 1964, pp. 519-536
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.
Cripps-Day, Francis Henry, "Fountaine Sale (Christie, Manson and Woods), 16 June 1884", A Record of Armour Sales 1881-1924, G. Bell and Sons, London, 1925, p. 5, '557 Italian Falling Bevor'.
Laking, Sir Guy Francis, A Record of European Armour and Arms Through Seven Centuries, G. Bell and Sons, London 1921, p.159-161

Labels and date

Arms and Armour Gallery:

BUFFE FROM A BURGONET
ITALIAN (Milanese); about 1585
M.111-1921
D.M. Currie Bequest
Part of an armour made ny Lucio Piccinino, presented to Philip III of Spain, by Charles Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy. From the Royal Armoury, Madrid. [to 2002]
Fragments display

Buffe (face guard for a helmet)
Steel, embossed, chased and damascened with gold and silver
Milan, Italy; about 1585
Probably from the workshop of Lucio Piccinino (born around 1535, active around 1570-1589)
Probably presented to the future King Philip III of Spain in 1585 by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy as part of a series of richly decorated parade suits

Steel is a strong metal alloy, yet this piece of armour would have been used on parade rather than in battle. The Museum acquired it as a work of art. It shows enormous skill in metalworking. The careful relief decoration has been created by embossing, using tools to raise the surface of the metal from the reverse side. The intricate silver and gold decoration is called damascening. This technique was imported into Europe from the Middle East.

Bequeathed by D.M. Currie
Museum no. M.111-1921 [10/11/2008]

Materials

Steel; Gold; Silver

Techniques

Embossing; Forging; Gilding; Silvering; Rivetting

Subjects depicted

Strapwork; Flames; Scrolls (motifs)

Categories

Arms & Armour; Ceremonial objects; Death; Metalwork; Royalty

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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