The Sallet in Portugal – Additional Notes

Dada a extensão deste artigo, achei por bem publicar as versões inglesa e portuguesa em separado. Para a versão portuguesa, cliquem aqui.

After publishing my article on the sallet in 1470s Portugal (which you can read here), I have come across a few titbits that not only help reinforce some of the ideas I  presented, but might also open new paths of research, new questions to ask.

To begin with, the Saint Vincent Panels – yet again. By mere chance, I stumbled upon an image (below) shared by the Museum of Lamego, in northern Portugal, of a 2014 exhibition on the scientific analysis of the polyptych. What we can see in it is that, in the place currently occupied by Prince Henry in the Panel of the Knights, Nuno Gonçalves had initially  sketched a warrior with his head protected by a visorless sallet. Better still, this warrior was himself redrawn once, before ultimately being abandoned for a depiction of Henry. The result is the existence of not one, but two sallets of different styles, superimposed. Though it’s hard to tell which of them was drawn first, what we see is a larger sallet with a round, visorless skull, a pronounced edge and large rivets – that is, an Italian sallet, nside of it there is the distinct smaller and pointier skull of another sallet, extremely similar to that of the Burgundian-style sallets I mentioned in the initial publication.

Celada 3.png
Radiography of the Panel of the Knights. All rights belong to the author(s) and the Museum of Lamego.

What this discovery brings us is – at least in the case of visorless sallets – the confirmation of their use in Portugal as per the Tapestries. Though the Tapestries could be considered to have been potentially “contaminated” by Flemish artistic and cultural standards, it would be difficult to apply the same reasoning to the Panels, painted as they were in Regnum Portugalliae. Therefore, if these pieces of armour were demonstrably worn in Portugal, they are yet another element confirming the Tapestries’ reliability as a portrayal of Portuguese equipment of 1471.

Also on the theme of the Pastrana sallets – visored ones this time -, let us look at the effigy of the Spanish knight Don Juan Núñez Dávila, dead in 1469. Although it isn’t Portuguese, this superb artefact is part of the Iberian trend to which both Tapestries and Panels belong – as attested to by the “fishtail” plackart, for example, or the use of the double-layered maille skirt, which can also be found in two other effigies at the Cathedral of Ávila (those of Sancho Dávila and Don Pedro González de Valderrábano). Let’s focus on the sallet at Don Juan’s feet.

The effigy of Don Juan Núñez Dávila, in the Cathedral of Ávila (1469).

Two interesting facts about this sallet. The first is its resemblance to several of the sallets in the tapestries – see the example below, the similarities between the visor hinge, the scalloped edge of the integrated brow reinforce, rivet placement and the shape of skull.

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Left: Visored sallet, in the tapestry Assault on Asilah. Right: Detail of the sallet of Don Juan’s effigy.

The second can be gleaned from Don Juan’s will, which reads “(…) that in the year of my death a bust of good alabaster be made of me, with its  pillows made of alabaster, armed with the arms used nowadays and with sleeves and skirt made to look like golden maille and the sword and spurs also golden and a squire at its feet with a French sallet with its golden rivets and a dragon on which the self-same squire is sat [my translation and italics]” [1].

It is not surprising that Pastrana sallets are similar to this “French sallet with its golden rivets”, given that, as I explained in the main article, Portuguese sallets were Franco-Burgundian in design. And this leads us to one last, more conjectural question: how do the tails and visors of the Pastrana sallets work together?

The lower edge of visored sallets usually rests on the same plane as the bottom edge of the sallet. That is the configuration of Don Juan’s sallet, above. In the tapestries, however – and in spite of the fact that the visors are raised – the lower edge of the sallet seems to extend beyond the bottom of the visor, thereby covering a larger surface of the neck.

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Visored sallets. Details of the tapestries Disembarkation at Asilah (left) and Assault on Asilah (centre and right).

This is an observable characteristic in several sallets, both in art and extant artefacts, from about 1450 to the early years of the sixteenth century.

Celada 8.png
Left, top: detail from the manuscript Guiron le Courtois, BNF Français 356, 77v (ca. 1450). Centre, top: detail of the Flemish tapestry Tarquinius Priscus (ca. 1475). Right, top: detail from the Solothurner Fechtbuch (early 16th century). Left, bottom: Franco-Burgundian sallet (ca. 1460), Metropolitan Museum of Art, 29.150.13. Centre, bottom: German sallet (ca. 1485-1510), Žleby Castle, ZL 6691. Right, bottom: Italian sallet (ca. 1500-1520), The Wallace Collection.

Is this the same curve we find in the Pastrana sallets? That is to say, is this curve a stylization of perspective in the tapestries, the result of medieval techniques of artistic composition; or is it possible that, like the depictions and artefacts presented above, there was a Portuguese tendency for low-reaching sallets? I’ll leave the question here, along with these notes.


[1] “(…) que luego en el año que fallesciere me hagan un bulto de alabastro mucho bueno con sus almohadas de alabastro, armado con las armas que agora se usan e con las mangas e faldas que parescan de malla de jazerán dorado y la espada y espuelas ansí mismo dorado y un paje a los pies con unas espuelas doradas en la mano y una celada francesa con sus bollones dorados e un dragón sobre el que está echado el dicho paje [my italics]”, in Ruiz-Ayúcar, M. (1987). La ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Vacas de Ávila, y la restauración de su retablo, p. 25.



Ruiz-Ayúcar, M. (1987). La ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Vacas de Ávila, y la restauración de su retablo. Ávila: Institución Gran Duque de Alba.


(ca. 1475). Assault on Asilah [wool and silk]. Tapestry. Pastrana: Parish Tapestry Museum. Retrieved from

(ca. 1475). Disembarkation in Asilah [wool and silk]. Tapestry. Pastrana: Parish Tapestry Museum. Retrieved from

(ca. 1475). Tarquinius Priscus [wool and silk]. Tapestry. Zamora: Cathedral Museum. Retrieved from

(ca. 1469). Tomb and effigy of Don Juan Núñez Dávila[effigy in alabaster]. Ávila: Ávila Cathedral. Retrieved fromúñez_Dávila%2C_Catedral_de_Ávila.jpg

Guiron le Courtois (ca. 1420). Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, BNF Français 356. Retrieved from

Solothurner Fechtbuch (early 16th century). Solothurn: Zentralbibliothek, Codex S.554

Gonçalves, N. (ca. 1470). Saint Vincent Panels [oil and tempera on wood]. Lisbon: National Museum of Ancient Art. Retrieved froméis_de_São_Vicente_de_Fora#/media/File:Lagos40_kopie.jpg


I would like to think Callum Tostevin-Hall for the stimulating debate regarding the neck coverage of the Pastrana sallets, and Virgil Oldman for his help in tracking down the Žleby sallet’s inventory number.


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