A 19th century Joseon Korean helmet, £20,500 at Hansons.

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The helmet was dated to the final century of the Joseon era, the last dynastic kingdom of Korea which lasted from its foundation by Yi Seong-gye in July 1392 to its replacement by the Korean Empire in October 1897.

Measuring about (25cm) high, it featured a lacquered leather skull, with applied gilt copper dragons, and floriated strap work, the helmet’s gilt copper peak being pierced through dragon motifs. Fabric lined the interior.

A similar example resides in the Brooklyn Museum.


Detail of the 19th century Joseon Korean helmet, £20,500 at Hansons.

The guide was £250-350 in this Etwall, Derbyshire, auction on February 28 but the hammer fell only at £20,500. Hansons specialist Matt Crowson said: “The vendor is local to the saleroom. We cleared a large quantity of items from a house in Mickleover, Derbyshire.

“Competition was fierce on the day, understandably mostly internet bidding. There were originally two telephone bids booked from prospective buyers in the US, but they were swiftly blown away by internet bids from South Korea.”

The buyer is based in South Korea (as was the underbidder).

In July 2020 a Joseon 19th century helmet came up for sale at Bonhams in the US. It was without the ornate details shown here and sold for a premium-inclusive $10,700.