Piece of the Month I

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

After several requests, I’ve decided to create a monthly feature for the blog: the Piece of the Month. Here, I’ll briefly present a 15th century Portuguese piece – a piece of art, a garment, accessories, etc. – that helps us to better understand life in Portugal during 1470-1480.

And the first item is…


Collection: Military Museum, Lisbon – Portugal (Inv. – MML. N.º 21/88)

Dates: 15th century, second half (?)

Provenance: Unknown

Local of Production: Unknown

Dimensions: 16cm in height x 28cm in width

Weight: 343g

Materials: Steel (?)

Description: Full visor, made from a single piece of steel, with a pronounced central ridge. It has two pairs of holes on either extremity, the largest of which would’ve accommodated a pivoting rivet; the smaller hole was almost certainly made after the sallet’s working life, for exhibition purposes. It features a double-scalloped edge along the brow and a large central extension (with another small hole on top), with an almost semi-circular top edge.

Side view of the visor, in situ. My own photograph.

The visor’s eye-slits, or ocularium, consist of two horizontal slits with a small steel tongue separating them in the middle, over the nose. This narrow section of steel bridges the gap between the brow and the thick, salient edge running below the eye slits. There’s yet another small hole, with no apparent purpose, near the rolled edge at the bottom of the visor.

Front view of the visor. My own photograph.
Schematic model of  Lisbon’s visor, on a stylistically neutral skull.

This visor is the only and last testimony in Portugal of the hundreds upon hundreds of sallets that have surely passed through the city of Lisbon in the 15th century, to be stored in the Royal Arsenal. It is impossible to determine where it was made, given that there are no armourer’s marks to help us. Stylistically, the visor shares a few common features with the visor on a sallet from ca. 1460-1490 in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London [1], and it would fit in with a variety of ‘regional styles’ known and worn in Portugal during the 15th century (Anglo / Franco-Burgundian, Italian export style, …) . It may even have been made in Portugal, by Portuguese armourers. There simply is no way to determine its provenance for certain. Still, wherever it comes from, this visor gives us a very clear idea of the type of visors that would’ve been in Portuguese territory in the later half of the 15th century.

[1] http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O92981/sallet-unknown/


Agostinho, P. (2012). Vestidos para matar: o armamento de guerra na cronística portuguesa de quatrocentos. Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra

Barroca, M. and Monteiro, J. (Coords.) (2000). Pera Guerrejar. Armamento Medieval no Espaço Português. Palmela: Câmara Municipal de Palmela

Monteiro, J. G. (2001). Armeiros e Armazéns nos Finais da Idade Média. Viseu: Palimage Editores


2 thoughts on “Piece of the Month I

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