Archaic Bronze Helmet of the Corinthian Type
Period: second half of the 6th century B.C.
Dimensions: H: 24cm
American private collection, acquired from the André Emmerich Gallery, New York, in 1980.
This helmet shows the distinctive features of the Corinthian type (see n. 10); modeled from a single, rather thin sheet of bronze, which was cast and then hammered, it belongs to the latest of the three groups currently established for the classifi cation of Corinthian helmets. In profile, the top copies the anatomical shape of the skull with a more rounded back, while the outline near the forehead is more linear. The front represents a stylized face with horizontal, wide almond-shaped openings for the eyes, divided in the center by the nose protector and a long slit that separates the paragnathides (riveted pieces for the protection of the cheeks) and at least partially reveals the mouth. On the back, the nape is fl ared both to allow the soldier to move freely and to protect him from the blows of the enemy. Seen in profile especially, one notices the thick ridge that was supposed to increase the degree of protection and that, typologically, constitutes the distinctive feature of the third group of Corinthian helmets. The ridge goes around the head and separates the upper skull from the lower part. Above the eyes, this ridge draws two arches imitating the eyebrows. Four small holes pierced at the ends of the cheek protectors and on the rim at ear level were probably used to attach a chinstrap and/or to fasten an inner lining made of leather (in this connection, it is noteworthy that such a lining could also exist as a simple cap that the warrior wore on top of his head, as indicated by Greek iconography and particularly in scenes painted on ceramics). Incised decoration – drawn here with great precision and elegance, in which each line is double or triple as around the eyes – is particularly rare and remarkable on Corinthian helmets. At the center of the forehead is a palmette with seven leaves in very light relief, furnished with concentric circles at the base and surrounded by lateral volutes. Next to this central pattern stand two bearded snakes, one on either side, with mouths open and a threatening appearance, whose serpentine bodies descend and then curl, emphasizing the drawing of the eyebrows and joining in a point above the nose protector. Engraved fillets highlight the outline of the eyes, of the nose protector and of the mouth slit.
The line determined by the bodies of the snakes and, to a lesser extent, the presence of the palmette enable us to link this example to a subgroup of Corinthian helmets produced in Magna Graecia (Helme mit Stirnzwickel in German), which chronologically belong to the second half of the 6th century B.C. Very few in number, they are often characterized by the presence of a figural decoration, incised above the temples (like the snakes here, sometimes replaced by two bulls). The structure of the decoration and the patterns represented are closely related to those of another Greek war helmet, called Chalcidian, but whose origin would rather be found in western Greek cities and in the Euboean city of Chalcis.
On related helmets, see: Antike Helme:
Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Mainz/Rhine, 1988, pp. 96-99; pp. 412-415.
COMSTOCK M. and VERMEULE C., Greek, Etruscan and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1971, pp. 404-407, no. 582. PFLUG H., Schutz und Zier: Helme aus dem Antikenmuseum Berlin und Waffen anderer Sammlungen, Basel, 1989, p. 21; p. 59, no. 22.
On Greek helmets in general, see:
FEUGERE M., Les casques antiques: Visages de la guerre de Mycènes à l’Antiquité tardive, Paris, 1994, pp. 15 ff.