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Old 10th February 2017, 09:44 PM   #1
dana_w
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Default St. Augustine Florida Excavated Spanish Cabasset (Morion)

This morion was excavated on St. Augustine Florida's Anastasia Island near the Alligator Farm in the early 1960's. The man who found this it patched the holes and painted it, then wore it for years in the St. Augustine Easter Parade. When my father, F.E. (Jack) Williams, spotted it he offered to purchase it, then did his best to return the helmet to its as found condition. 
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Old 11th February 2017, 02:53 AM   #2
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Nice condition for being excavated! I too and from Florida, not too horribly far from St. Augustine! Seen the place several times.

Thanks for posting this.
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Old 11th February 2017, 06:43 PM   #3
Jim McDougall
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Excellent! It does appear to be a morion. But didn't they usually have a comb? Often the Spaniards wore cabassets. What period would this be from?
St. Augustine is one of the earliest colonial settlements in North America (excluding of course the Newfoundland situations).

What sort of colonial activity would this correspond to in the area it was excavated?

Fascinating to see a great old helmet, but it would be interesting to know more about it.
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Old 11th February 2017, 07:14 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Excellent! It does appear to be a morion. But didn't they usually have a comb? Often the Spaniards wore cabassets. What period would this be from?
St. Augustine is one of the earliest colonial settlements in North America (excluding of course the Newfoundland situations).

What sort of colonial activity would this correspond to in the area it was excavated?

Fascinating to see a great old helmet, but it would be interesting to know more about it.
As you are right to point out Jim, this would more properly be called a Cabasset. I've spent too much time around people calling these helmets Morions and the ones with the comb, Comb Morions.

St. Augustine was founded in 1565, for a short time the town was located on Anastasia Island and a watchtower was located there after the town was relocated back to the mainland.

The raid of St. Augustine by Sir Francis Drake in 1586 is illustrated in this hand-colored engraving, by Baptista Boazio, 1589
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Old 11th February 2017, 07:34 PM   #5
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Apparently morions are often called cabassets, a more generic name.
Morions do indeed have a comb, while the cabasset has a little appendix on the top, called pear. Both versions were used by Spaniards and Portuguese.
This example has all looks to be original and therefore dated from the beg. XVI century.
There are a couple members with a lot of knowledge on these things.
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Old 12th February 2017, 02:38 AM   #6
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What a find!
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Old 12th February 2017, 12:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terry K
What a find!
And with a most convincing look and extremely well recuperated .

And if you don't mind Dana, i will show here the so called "Gold cabasset of Goa", a master piece of Indo-Portuguese art, probably ordered by a Vice-Roy, a recurrent luxury practiced by period nobility, the type of those exuberant excesses then forbidden by the King. It is indeed a repousse work in copper, covered with a thick layer of gold. The motifs depicted are various, namely hunting scenes on horse and foot, with Europeans wearing "baloon" trousers, and a number of flowers, birds and animals, including monkeys with human faces.
It was located in the Azores, for no explained reason, and it was covered with black pitch, in a way to hide its real value.


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Old 12th February 2017, 02:34 PM   #8
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VERY nice!
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Old 12th February 2017, 09:37 PM   #9
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Dana, thank you so much for the response and additional colonial information. That really puts a nice context around this outstanding cabasset!
St. Augustine is a fascinating place, and I visited there once several years ago, not spending nearly enough time there and always longing to go back.
Your father, Jack Williams, was indeed a connoisseur of fascinating antiquities and it is great that you carry forth his astute and discerning passions.
Keep 'em coming OK!!!

All best regards
Jim
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Old 14th February 2017, 03:06 AM   #10
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Fernando , the item on the Gold Cabasset of Goa was a great discussion we had back in 2011, and was part of one of my forays into art history and Rembrandt's use of exotic arms and armor in his works. I was trying to find out just what kind of helmet was depicted in "Man With the Golden Helmet" which once thought by the master himself but turned out to be by one of his school.
I discovered this was actually a 'pear stalk cabasset', and in your entry you noted the example of the Portuguese viceroy was of the same 'school' of highly decorated helmets of this otherwise ordinary form worn by 16th-17th century infantry and pikemen.

The artist of the "Man with the Golden Helmet" seems to have used some license by adding ear flaps, probably mindful of those seen on contemporary lobster tail helmets.

We can only wonder what the original helmet used for the basis for that worn in the "Man with the Golden Helmet" (c.1650) might have looked like, but perhaps very much like this interesting example shared here by Dana.
These cabassets were of course widely used in Europe and Spain in her colonies and provinces (including Netherlands), and clearly with Portuguese connections in their many colonial holdings.
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Old 14th February 2017, 11:08 AM   #11
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Good memory Jim.
Worthy of note is that, while we ignore how much artistic liberty, as from its model, is used in the decoration of such magnificent cabasset depicted in "Man With the Golden Helmet", that executed in the Portuguese Vice-Roy example is pure reality ... indeed an exorbitant demonstration of Indo-Portuguese artistry.
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Old 14th February 2017, 04:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Good memory Jim.
Worthy of note is that, while we ignore how much artistic liberty, as from its model, is used in the decoration of such magnificent cabasset depicted in "Man With the Golden Helmet", that executed in the Portuguese Vice-Roy example is pure reality ... indeed an exorbitant demonstration of Indo-Portuguese artistry.
Good point Fernando, and well placed. While the Dutch artist devised a fantastic helmet with the artists inventiveness and brush, the Portuguese example was a reality. One can only wonder if such other helmets were seen or known to these Dutch individuals, or whether such helmets were quite rarely seen and the embellishment was purely coincidental.
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Old 15th February 2017, 07:08 AM   #13
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Default St Augustine helmet -- an intermediate form?

My impression is that a cabasset is distinguished by a narrow flat brim around the entire circumference of the shell, whereas a moron has a brim that is peaked fore-and-aft. At least that's what I gather from Oakeshott's classifications. If so, it would seem that this particular helmet might be a rare and unusual intermediate type -- what do you guys think?

As said previously, it's marvelously intact for something excavated in an area with tropical climate. I hope that steps have been taken to stabilize the metal to keep it as intact as we see it now, for generations to come. Thanks for sharing this, Dana! I hope you have no plans to keep wearing this thing in parades or for any other festive gatherings.
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Old 15th February 2017, 01:00 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Good point Fernando, and well placed. While the Dutch artist devised a fantastic helmet with the artists inventiveness and brush, the Portuguese example was a reality. One can only wonder if such other helmets were seen or known to these Dutch individuals, or whether such helmets were quite rarely seen and the embellishment was purely coincidental.
Rainer Daehnhardt dedicates more than one page to this subject in the catalogue this 'Vice Roy' example went to auction. In a more thorough reading, at one stage he comments on the paint "The man with the golden cabasset", 'previously' attributed to Rembrandt, as being one more example of the same kind, probably fallen into the hands of the Dutch, during one of the frequent battles fought in the Indic Ocean. So according to his perspective the pseudo-Rembrandt example is not, as i previously realized, an artist invention but one modeled from the real thing... and probably also Indo-Portuguese. In another paragraph he mentions that the only other exixting example of this school is in the NY Metropolitan, however naked from its gold cover and with all buttons missing.


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Old 15th February 2017, 01:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
...I hope you have no plans to keep wearing this thing in parades or for any other festive gatherings...
Yes, it must be so fragile by now that, if you drop it on a hard surface, would mean disaster !
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Old 15th February 2017, 11:01 PM   #16
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Philip, I would be inclined to agree on this being a transitional or variant form between cabasset and morion. The boat hull type brim rather than the thin surround type does recall the morion type. The 'pear stalk' atop rather than comb is wholly cabasset.
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Old 16th February 2017, 02:15 AM   #17
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Very interesting. I wonder if there might be any museums in St. Augustine that have other examples of excavated items.

Does it have any seems like a morion or is it all one piece?
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Old 16th February 2017, 01:30 PM   #18
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Default From the depth of my ignorance ...

Could it be assumed that, instead of this being a transitional or intermediary specimen, is simply one more contemporary variant, as it appears there were several. I guess we also have to consider the idiomatic issue, as typologies in different nations would have different names to the same model ... or sort of. As a curious note, we still (and only) use in Portugal the term 'capacete' for current military and bikers head protection devices.
Indeed Oakeshott calls cabacete to the type with a pear stalk, labelling it as a Spanish form of celata; while the drawing he represents in his work and the words he uses in its text, besides the typical top stalk detail, are a downturned brim coming to a sharp point fore and aft. We know that cabassets also appear with an all round flat or downturned brim ... no points up. So, and not trying to vulgarize the subject, one should expect there were models for all tastes.
Attached a XV century Portuguese armour; unfortunately (having to be) assembled with components from different units, but all originated from the Lisbon Arsenal. Interesting to notice that capacete variant.

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Old 16th February 2017, 06:12 PM   #19
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I would think that contemporary variants would be somewhat in this same nebulous area of classification as transitional examples, as naturally either personal or localized regional styling and preference in features would call for such cases.

It would seem something would leave the transitional stage when one or more characteristics are left behind becoming the new or more current form.
In many cases, particularly with Spanish arms and armour, older and even technically obsolete forms were often still preferred, particularly in the New World. Whether these were simply easier obtained than newer forms by the self supplied individuals in these expeditions and colonizations using surplus obsolete items or deliberately commissioned is anybody's guess.
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Old 17th February 2017, 05:48 AM   #20
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Default Analogous examples to Dana's helmet

'Just noticed one of nearly identical shape and construction to the St Augustine helmet, published in the guidebook to the Luigi Marzoli Collection housed in the castle in Brescia, Italy. The piece (inv. no. E60), is dated to the period 1570-80 and attributed to a Brescian workshop or armory. The only real difference with this one is that it is lightly engraved with geometric and floral borders, and displays a large coat-of-arms of a lion rampant surmonted by a Cross of Lorraine. And it appears to be in near-perfect condition, having led a very sheltered life for about 450 years!

The museum identifies the type as a "morione aguzzo".

Turning to my copy of Umberto Franzoi's "L'Armeria del Palazzo Ducale a Venezia", there are 71 catalog entries for morions. The type with the "pear" stem is called "morione a punta" (the equivalent to the m. aguzzo), and the pattern with the comb is, predictably, the "morione a cresta". The interesting thing is that the pear-topped ones vary greatly in terms of their brims, ranging from flat and oval (inv. no. C7) to flat with a "football shaped" contour (inv. no. C14), to a highly exaggerated upturned boat shape (inv. no. C65). All of those in the armory collection are engraved and from Brescia. The crested ones are either Brescian or German, and this class is in the minority.

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Old 17th February 2017, 06:47 AM   #21
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Default variations in terminology

So when is it a cabacete and when is it a morione? Curatorial choices of terminology can be quite varied and perhaps arbitrary -- the latter especially considering the number of neologisms which have become attached to certain objects by kernoozers and hobbyists long after the items themselves had passed from current use into the realm of nostalgia. ("Miquelet" and "mortuary hilt" are two classic examples of neologisms in a non-armor context.)

Fernando's posts, as well as mine, have touched on this. Here's another one --
the flat-brimmed cabasset with the pear stem top that the curators of the Armeria del Palazzo Ducale have placed into the class "morione a punta" is tagged as a "zuccotto" by the folks at the Armeria Reale di Torino. Same thing, different name.

And how about same name applied to a range of very different helmets? Check out Oakeshott, "European Weapons and Armour" fig. 90, A-K to see the variety of forms classified as "burgonets".
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Old 17th February 2017, 06:17 PM   #22
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It would seem the 'name game' is alive and well in all fields of arms and armour
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