N.B. This application works best in newer versions of the web browsers Firefox, Opera and Safari. Test your browser here.
Helmet with Grotesque Visor
This helmet, with its rather special appearance, is one of the few preserved objects that we know was owned by the Swedish king Gustav Vasa (1496-1560).
The helmet is part of the King’s only remaining suit of ceremonial armour. It was made in Germany in 1540, probably in Augsburg or Nuremberg, which were home to some of the most skilled armour makers of the time. The visor, the part that covers the face, did not originally belong to the helmet, but it is thought to be of the same period.
A helmet of this type was made not for battle but for celebratory occasions. In the 16th century, full suits of steel armour were the height of fashion. For parades and other royal festivities, the social elite would dress up in specially-made sets of costume armour with a close helmet. During these celebrations it became popular, in the early 16th century, to wear close helmets with grotesque visors in the form of animal or human faces, like this one, to enhance the festive atmosphere and heighten the sense of theatricality.
Look at the helmet more closely:
Click on the ‘Play’ button to rotate and zoom in on the helmet. If you click on the numbers, you can find out more about how the helmet was used.