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Northern Italy

‘Spanish’ morion probably about 1570-80

RCIN 67340.a

Grand Staircase, Windsor Castle

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  • 'Spanish' morion, made in Northern Italy, formed in one piece with a tall almond-shaped crown rising at its apex to a short backward-directed ‘stalk’ and a narrow integral brim.  The base of its crown is encompassed by fourteen brass dome-headed rivets, including two somewhat smaller ones at the rear. A second pair of the smaller size are placed above the line of the others at the front. Nineteen more encircle the brim, each fitted internally with a large rectangular iron washer and in some cases some retaining fragments of a leather lining-band.

    The crown is etched in relief on a stippled and blackened ground with four bands radiating from its apex.  The etching is modern.  Each band is enclosed between two narrow bands of well-executed stylised roping each followed at its outer edge by a black line. The bands are etched with guilloche strapwork having dotted central lines, and framing in each loop a quatrefoil. Occupying the intervals are cartouches framed by strapwork knots and containing classical figures: Marcus Curtius at the left front and the right rear, alternating with Mucius Scaevola. Etched around the base of the crown with plain ovals around the rivets alternating with diamond-shaped panels with concave sides each framing a quatrefoil, all edged with stylised roping and a black line. The apex of the crown is etched in line with an acanthus calyx. The whole is now very rubbed.

    Fitted at the rear of the skull is an associated truncated conical plumeholder of cast and pierced brass secured by a rivet in each of its two trifoliate lugs. Its upper edge supports three fleur-de-lis and its body is pierced with heart-shaped holes and strapwork.

    The type of strapwork found on this morion began to come into fashion in the early 1560s.  The plume-holder is of the kind found on what are thought to be Dutch armours of the early seventeenth century.

    The two classical figures depicted on this morion, Marcus Curtius and Mucius Scaevola, were renowned for their bravery and self-sacrifice. According to legend, when a chasm opened up in the Roman Forum following an earthquake in 326 BC, the gods demanded the Romans' most precious possession in return for closing it. A young soldier, Marcus Curtius, responded that arms and courage were the most precious possessions of the Romans, and rode into the chasm fully armed, with the result that it immediately closed.  In 508 BC, according to another story, Mucius Scaevola entered the camp of the Clusian king, Lars Porsena, who lay siege to Rome, with the intent of killing him. When captured before he could complete his task, Mucius declared that he was as willing to die as he had been to kill, since Romans both acted and suffered bravely.  To emphasise his point, he thrust his hand into a nearby fire and held it there without any show of pain. The figures of Marcus Curtius leaping into the chasm and Mucius Scaevola plunging his hand into the fire are frequently depicted on opposing faces of etched morions, mostly intended for wear by select bodyguards. The theme of courage and self-sacrifice conveyed by these images was presumably a reminder to the wearer of the extent of his duties to those he served.

    Similar to RCIN 67327.a.  Probably Milanese.

    Measurements: height 25.4 cm, width: 24.7 cm, depth 32.1 cm. Weight: 1.361 kg.

    Text adapted from Arms and Armour in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen: European Armour, London, 2016

    Provenance

    This morion is now shown with the incomplete half-armour, RCIN 67340.  It seems to correspond with a piece (no. 1219) described in the Catalogue of Arms at Carlton House which was prepared for George IV when Prince of Wales.

  • Creator(s)
    Probably (place of production)