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Work Corinthian helmet

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Casque de type corinthien

© 2004 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Archaic Greek Art (7th-6th centuries BC)

Author(s):
Marie-Bénédicte Astier

Extremely widespread in the seventh century BC, the Corinthian helmet provided maximum protection with its nasal and its broad cheek plates. The curved profile of the back part of the Louvre example and the angular side openings mark a stage in the development of this type of helmet. The engraved decoration is lavish: palmettes, female sphinxes, and lions refer to proto-Corinthian ceramics and are inspired by the Greco-oriental repertoire employed during the orientalist period.

A Corinthian helmet

Although nothing is known about where it was found or the circumstances in which it found its way into the Louvre, the shape, decoration, and craftsmanship of this bronze helmet suggest that it is the work of a Corinthian craftsman and can be dated circa 650-625 BC. The Corinthian helmet was widespread in Greece from the seventh century BC onward. Its origin is ascribed to the workshops in Argos, but it is frequently portrayed on Corinthian vases, and substantial quantities seem to have been made at Corinth. The helmet was part of the equipment of hoplites, heavily armed soldiers whose appearance coincided with the gradual adoption of new bronze arms. It was designed for maximum protection of the warrior. With a long nasal and broad, fixed cheek plates, it covered almost the entire face, leaving only the eyes and mouth visible. The curved profile of the back part of the Louvre example and the angular side openings mark a stage in the development of this type of helmet.

Borrowings from the orientalist repertoire

The decoration is particularly rich. The eyebrows are engraved with small hatchings, rather than indicated in relief as was the case with certain later helmets. The rim is decorated with a line of chevrons prolonged by a palmette to the outer angles of the eyes. The only remaining cheek plate is engraved with a female sphinx, while a pair of lions are depicted on each of the side openings. These motifs are inspired by the Greco-oriental repertoire that spread through a large part of the Mediterranean during the orientalist period, as a result of trade between mainland Greece and the Near East. The artist has combined plant motifs and oriental animal figures, both real and imaginary.

Echoes of proto-Corinthian ceramics

The decoration of the helmet also draws on the vocabulary of proto-Corinthian ceramics. The profile of the sphinx, and the slender, elongated bodies of the lions are similar to the painted silhouettes found on vases of the period. Likewise, the method of engraving used on the helmet is related to the black-figure decorative technique developed in Corinth circa 680-670 BC, which consisted of adding detail to figures appearing in black silhouette by incised lines and the occasional use of colored highlights.

Bibliography

Amandry P., "Casques grecs à décor gravé", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique, 1949, pp. 438-439

Technical description

  • Casque de type corinthien

    Troisième quart du VIIe siècle avant J.-C.

    Production corinthienne (?)

  • Bronze

    H.: 20 cm

  • Br 1101

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

    Sully wing
    1st floor
    Bronzes room
    Room 32, temporarily closed to the public, works n
    Vitrine M3 : Armement grec (VIIe - IVe siècles avant J.-C.)

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