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Comb morion: HEN.M.26-1933

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 31 (Armoury)


Production: Unknown (Probably)




Comb morion, for wear by the bodyguard of the Electors of Saxony. Formed in one piece with a rounded crown that curves down at each side and rises to a high, roped, medial comb; and an integral brim that is turned down at each side and curves up to a point at the front and rear. The edge of the brim has a file-roped inward turn. The base of the crown is encircled by sixteen lining-rivets with caps of gilt-brass, cast and chiselled in relief as lions' masks carrying rings in their mouths. The rivets have square, internal washers. Located just below the central pair of lining-rivets on each side is a pair of externally-flush rivets that retain fragments of the leathers for the attachment of missing cheek-pieces. The base of the crown is encircled just below the level of the original lining-rivets with fourteen later lining-rivets having small, round heads and square, brass, internal washers. Two of the washers at the centre of the left side are missing. Attached at the nape by a pair of modern, round-headed brass rivets is a gilt brass plume-holder, cast and chiselled in high relief as a female herm. A later hole pierced through the comb a short distance above the plume-holder, probably served to tie up the plume. The helmet is decorated at its main edges and at the junctions of crown with the comb and the brim, with narrow bands of etched and gilt guilloche and running volutes. Each side of the comb is decorated at its centre with a circular cartouche formed of a narrow band of running, stylised foliage. The cartouches are etched and gilt on the left and right sides respectively with the arms of the Archmarshalcy of the Holy Roman Empire, per fess sable and argent, two swords gules in saltire overall, and of the Dukes of Saxony, barry of ten, or and sable, a crancelin vert in bend overall. The front, the rear and each side of the crown are decorated with a circular cartouche formed of a narrow band of etched and gilt arabesque scrolls. The central cartouche is linked to the front and rear cartouches, to the cartouche on the comb and to the centre of the base of the crown by vertical and horizontal bands of the same design. The cartouches on the left and right sides of the crown are etched and gilt, respectively, with representations of Mucius Scaevola before Porsena and Marcus Curtius leaping into the gulf. The gilding of the etched ornament shows some wear throughout. The surfaces intervening between the etched ornament may originally have been bright but were later blacked. The blackening is now extensively worn and the exposed surfaces have acquired a russet colour.


History note: From the Saxon Royal Armoury at Dresden. The present helmet may have been one of a large number of its kind that were removed from the Armoury in the 1830s and sent to the State Opera House in Dresden to be used as theatrical properties. These were subsequently rescued by dealers and widely dispersed on the market. Mr James Stewart Henderson of 'Abbotsford', Downs Road, St Helen's Park, Hastings, Sussex.

Legal notes

J.S. Henderson Bequest

Measurements and weight

Depth: 34 cm
Height: 28.8 cm
Weight: 1.6 kg
Width: 23.6 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Nuremburg

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1933-03-16) by Henderson, James Stewart


16th Century, Late
Production date: circa AD 1580


Like the burgonet, the morion was popular in the later 16th century right across Europe, though especially in Spain and they are frequently called ‘Spanish’ morions today. The very tall ridge over the top of the skull is called a comb which helps to protect from glancing blows. Originally it would have had two small plates, cheekpieces, hanging down on either side with straps which were fastened under the chin to hold the helmet on the head.

South German, probably Nuremberg

The helmet is one of a series made for use by the Trabantenleibgarde of the Prince Electors of Saxony. They were originally acquired for the use of the bodyguard of the Elector August I (1553-86), but continued to be used, and perhaps even added to, in the time of his successors Christian I (1586-91) and Christian II (1661-71). Many helmets of this series bear the marks of Nuremberg makers. Other examples of the series are to be found in the Wallace Collection, London, the Glasgow Museum and Art Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Collezione Odescalchi, Rome, and the Museum für Deutsche Geschichte, Berlin (H. Muller & Kunter, Europäische Helme, Berlin, 1972, No. 86).

Components of the work

Plume-holder composed of gilt brass
Decoration composed of gilt
Rivet Caps composed of brass (alloy)
Rivets composed of brass (alloy)

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Hammered : Formed in one piece with a rounded crown that curves down at each side and rises to a high, roped, medial comb; and an integral brim that is turned down at each side and curves up to a point at the front and rear; hammered, shaped, riveted, cast, with chiselled, file-roped, etched, gilded and voluted decoration

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: HEN.M.26-1933
Primary reference Number: 18274
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 19 April 2021 Last processed: Wednesday 13 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

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