Front Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Skillfully hammered from a single sheet of metal, this helmet offered maximum protection to a warrior’s head and face while at the same time limiting his hearing and vision. Such helmets were appropriate for the battle tactics of the Greek hoplites, infantry soldiers armed with spear, sword, and a large, round shield, who fought in the close formation of the phalanx. Helmet, breastplate, and greaves of gleaming bronze lent the hoplites a formidable appearance. The prestige of bronze body armor, which marked its owners as well-to-do citizens, is reflected in the careful workmanship and finely decorated borders of this helmet.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1956.18
Title
Helmet of Corinthian Type
Classification
Armor
Work Type
armor
Date
early 6th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Period
Archaic period
Culture
Greek
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/312305
Location
Level 3, Room 3410, South Arcade
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Bronze
Technique
Cast, lost-wax process
Dimensions
24 x 18 x 27.5 cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/16 x 10 13/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 88.49; Sn, 11.2; Pb, 0.07; Zn, 0.017; Fe, 0.14; Ni, 0.01; Ag, 0.04; Sb, 0.03; As, less than 0.10; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, less than 0.005; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: This helmet is intact and in relatively pristine condition; there are several dents around the crown. The patina is dark green to brown, with intermittent spots of emerald green corrosion. Brown burial accretions are concentrated on the interior.

Helmets 1916.362 and 1956.18 are each made from a single piece of metal. X-radiographs reveal a mottled appearance that corresponds to small, round hammer marks applied in a concentric pattern around the crowns. An x-radiograph of the cheek guard on 1916.362 shows stacked rows of hammer marks running across the guard at a slight (c. 35 degree) angle. There is no evidence of gates, risers, chaplets, or porosity from casting on either helmet.

Metallographic examination of 1916.362 reveals intergranular corrosion, which confirms that the metal is ancient. Deformation lines, along with both straight and bent annealing twins visible in the etched microstructure, indicate numerous cycles of hammering and annealing. There is no clear evidence of how the egg-and-dart pattern was made, but etched sections show that the linear decoration beneath the egg-and-dart was made by cutting, rather than punching or casting. There is no evidence of coring, a dendritic structure, or porosity, which are all microstructural features consistent with casting. 1956.18 was not sampled for metallography or elemental analysis.


Molly McNamara (submitted 2000)

Provenance
J. Chappee collection, Le Mans, (by 1929). J. Brummer collection, New York, NY (by 1947). C. Ruxton Love, Jr., New York, NY, (by 1954-1956), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1956.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mr. C. Ruxton Love, Jr.
Accession Year
1956
Object Number
1956.18
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions

Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The edges of the helmet bear a band of decoration (1.1 cm wide) all the way around both cheek pieces, the neck guard, the eye cut-outs, and the nose guard (1). The band has two different motifs, with egg-and-dart around the nose guard, eye cut-outs, and the front of the cheek pieces; and interlocking spirals along the bottom of the cheek pieces and the neck guard. Both the egg-and-dart and spiral motifs are bordered on the top and bottom by two raised lines with a row of dots between them; this decoration is simplified on the narrow nose guard (specifically, the egg-and-dart remains, while the lines and beading are simplified along the edge of the nose guard and then omitted in the center). The dome of the helmet is undecorated. Small dents on the dome of the helmet could have occurred while it was in use.

The eye cut-outs are leaf-shaped, and the nose guard curves at the bottom. The helmet curves outward and upward slightly along the bottom edges. The neck guard flares out at the edge, and the dome of the helmet is more bulbous above the back of the neck.

NOTES:

1. For a discussion of the evolution, decoration, and distribution of Corinthian helmets, see H. Pflug, “Korinthische Helme,” in Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Forschungsinstitut für Vor- und Frühgeschichte Monographien 14 (Mainz, 1988) 65-106. See also E. Kunze, “Korinthische Helme,” Berichtt über die Ausgrabungene in Olympia 7 (1961): 56-128.


Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

Ancient Art in American Private Collections, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1954), no. 204.

Molly McNamara, "Technical Studies of Four Ancient Greek Helmets in the Collection of the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, October 2000), Unpublished, pp. 1-59 passim.

Molly McNamara, "Technical Studies of Four Ancient Greek Helmets at the Harvard University Art Museums", I Bronzi Antichi: Produzione e Technologia, ed. Alessandra Giumlia-Mair, Editions Monique Mergoil (Montagnac, 2002), 281-283, no. 1, fig. 1.

Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, Ancient Greece and the Olympics, Random House (New York, New York, 2004), p. 17.

[Reproduction Only], Persephone, (Spring 2005)., p. 79.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, "Men of Bronze--Cups of Bronze: Bronze in the Iron Age", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 146-69, pp. 146 and 149-50, fig. 7.2.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), pp. 146, 149-151, fig. 7.2

Exhibition History

Ancient Art in American Private Collections, Fogg Art Museum, 12/28/1954 - 02/15/1955

32Q: 3410 South Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu