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Work Helmet

Department of Decorative Arts: Renaissance

Morion of Charles IX

© 1987 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Decorative Arts
Renaissance

Author(s):
Barbier Muriel

The taste for beautiful armament was common to all the great European courts of the 16th century, including the French court of the Valois who also took an interest in the production of parade arms. The helmet and shield (mr427) of Charles IX (1550-1574) were created by the goldsmith Pierre Redon and are among the rare remaining examples of luxury weapons from the time of the French Renaissance.

The work of a goldsmith

The helmet and its matching shield were produced by Pierre Redon, a favorite among goldsmiths at the court of the Valois who was made 'valet de chambre' to the king. These facts are known thanks to the documents pertaining to the payment received for the two pieces by Redon's widow, Marie de Fourcroy, in 1572. The helmet, like the shield, is truly the work of a goldsmith. It was made of steel, repoussé and then plated with gold and adorned in several parts with enamel of either translucent green, red and blue or opaque white. The enamel decoration was applied in fine strokes on the reliefs of the ornamentation. The inside of the helmet is of crimson velvet embroidered with gold thread arabesques.

The decoration's martial theme

Each of the helmet's faces is adorned with a medallion depicting dramatic action. On the one hand, the artist has represented a camp in the middle of which warriors are trying to separate horses that have gone wild, a scene referring perhaps to the story of Diomedes devoured by his horses. The other face shows a battle of men on horses clashing before a besieged city. Completing these war scenes from Antiquity, the crest is decorated on one side with a Medusa head and on the other with the mask of an old man.

Ornaments borrowed from the repertory of the School of Fontainebleau

The ornaments circling the medallions and appearing on the crest are in the traditional style of the goldsmiths of the Fontainebleau School. The entire background of the helmet is blackened and covered with leather motifs, entrelac and war trophies. Additional motifs - scrolls, fruit bunches, pieces of leather, grotesque masks and ovolu - are reserved for the crest and the helmet's edge. These ornaments, which are characteristic of Mannerism and of the first School of Fontainebleau, match the historical or mythological battle theme. Their model is not known although they are very similar to the engravings of Etienne Delaune.

Bibliography

GRÜBER Alain (sous la dir. de), L'Art décoratif en Europe Renaissance et Maniérisme, Citadelles Mazenod, 1993, p 177.

Technical description

  • Pierre REDON, goldsmith

    Morion of Charles IX

    C. 1572

    Paris

  • Repoussé, chased iron, gold plaque; translucent and opaque enamels

  • Acquired in 1793 for the Museum Central des Arts (future Musée du Louvre)

    MR 426

  • Decorative Arts

    Richelieu wing
    1st floor
    Charles Quint
    Room 24
    Display case 9

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