Estimated at £40,000-60,000 in Thomas Del Mar’s sale on June 30, the south German etched gilt and embossed closed burgonet, c.1555-60, made £96,000 (£120,000 including premium).
Del Mar said: “I was delighted that the PMA won it. Competition was fierce and it was chased hard by collectors including three on the phone, an absentee bidder and at least two more online.
“The interest came not only from dedicated buyers of armour but also those with more of a focus on Renaissance works of art.”
He added: “I found the helmet in a private collection around a decade ago. Understandably, the owner decided to enjoy it until recently when a sale seemed sensible in light of some exceptional recent results.”
Made in Augsburg, the helmet has etching attributed to Jörg Sorg the Younger, who worked with the leading armourers of the period. “This was a rare piece of high quality when made and obviously a symbol of status and power,” Del Mar added. “It dates to the high point of the armour garniture and its appeal was considerable given its part within an extant garniture that was made for a nobleman within the imperial entourage.”
The elaborate garniture already in the PMA collection includes a close helmet, gauntlet for the left hand, breast and backplate.
Del Mar said the burgonet design is identical to that in the Sorg pattern book with the addition of tulip heads at the borders. “This matches it to the pieces in Philadelphia, as well as a front skirt lame preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, a vamplate now in the Musée de l’Armée in Paris and a saddle sold at Christie’s London in 1985.”
The scheme of design is related to two armours made for Philip II in 1550 and 1551. The tulips are perhaps a reference to the Ottoman empire, the flowers having been documented, apparently for the first time, in the spring of 1555 by the imperial ambassador at the court of Suleyman the Magnificent.
The Philadelphia garniture was part of a bequest from tobacco heir Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch in 1977. According to the PMA, by the early 1970s, von Kienbusch – who lived his full 91 years at 12 East 74th Street in New York City – “devoted the entire second floor of his residence to house his collection of medieval arms and armour, which was comprised of more than 1100 objects, including 35 full suits of armour, and more than 135 swords and 80 helmets”.
Part of the proceeds of this Del Mar sale will benefit The Wallace Collection in London.