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Peter Finer SPECIALISTS IN ANTIQUE ARMS, ARMOUR AND RELATED OBJECTS
Few pieces of armour can boast the romantic history of this rare early helmet. Prior to 1470 it had formed a part of the armoury of the Venetian fortress of Chalcis, situated on the Aegean island of Negroponte, known today by its
Greek name of Euboea. Lying at the outermost limits of the Christian world, this strategically placed fortress constituted from the late 14th Century a first line of defence against the then rapidly expanding Ottoman Turkish empire. In 1470, however, it fell to Mohammed II, leaving the way open for him to invade Greece and the Balkans.
Although the occupying Turks would doubtless have stripped the fortress bare of whatever arms they found there, a significant part of its armoury remained hidden from them. Only in 1840 did it come to light when part of an inside wall of the fortress, by then converted to use as a hospital, collapsed during construction work to reveal a vaulted chamber. Inside it were found linen sacks containing medieval armour, weapons and jewellery. At the command of King Otto of Greece, the armour was brought to Athens for display in one of the halls of his newly built palace, but later moved about from one place to another, including for a while the Acropolis, until it found a permanent home in the National Historical Museum of the city.
In about 1919–20, however, some of the Chalcis pieces were sold by the museum to Dr Bashford Dean of Riverdale, New York. A year after his death in 1928 most of them passed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New
York, where he had for many years served as curator of arms and armour. A few duplicates were nevertheless released from his collection either during his lifetime or shortly afterwards. Most important of them was our helmet which was sold anonymously by auction in New York in 1929, as having come ‘From the ancient armory of a castle on an island in the Eastern Mediterranean which during the fifteenth century was taken and dismantled by the Turks. It was one of the points of call of Crusaders on their way from Venice to the Holy Land.’
The armoury of the Venetian garrison at Chalcis, Euboea
The Royal Palace, Athens
The Acropolis, Athens The National Historical Museum, Athens Dr Bashford Dean, Riverdale, New York American Art Association, New York, 23–24 November 1928, lot 207
Clarence H. Mackay, Harbor Hill, Long Island, New York Hans von Schulthess, Schloss Au, near Zurich,Switzerland
WE SHALL SHORTLY BE EXHIBITING AT; 21-30 JANUARY THE WINTER ANTIQUES SHOW, NEW YORK.
05-13 FEBRUARY AIFAF, PALM BEACH
38 & 39 DUKE STREET, ST. JAMES’S, LONDON SW1Y 6DF
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Our ninth catalogue of antique arms, armour and related objects, is now available. We are offering some extremely rare and important items, all especially chosen for their exceptional quality and condition. Each piece is fully illustrated in colour and described by an internationally acknowledged expert.
Please contact us to order a copy.