The sallet (also called celata, salade and schaller) was a combat helmet that replaced the bascinet in Italy, western and northern Europe and Hungary during the mid-15th century. In Italy, France and England the armet helmet was also popular, but in Germany the sallet became almost universal.
The origin of the sallet seems to have been in Italy, where the term celata is first recorded in an inventory of the arms and armour of the Gonzaga family dated to 1407. In essence, the earliest sallets were a variant of the bascinet, intended to be worn without an aventail or visor. To increase protection to the face and neck, that the abandonment of the visor and aventail would have exposed, the sides of the helmet were drawn forward at the bottom to cover the cheeks and chin, and the rear was curved out into a flange to protect the neck. The barbute or barbuta was a related helmet appearing in Italy at much the same time as the sallet. Unlike the sallet, which it can be considered as a specialised variant of, the fully developed barbute consciously copied elements of the Classical Corinthian helmets of ancient times.
Later developments and regional variations
The sallet became popular in France, England and the Netherlands through contact with Italy and eventually was adopted in Germany. Regional styles developed, which were catered for by the great armour manufacturing centres of northern Italy (especially Milan) and southern Germany (Augsburg and Nuremberg). However, though a sallet, or complete armour, might be German in style, it could have been of Italian manufacture, or vice versa. The German sallet may have been the product of the melding of influences from the Italian sallet and the deep-skulled "German war-hat," a type of brimmed chapel de fer helmet.
Later Italian sallets (by c. 1460) lost their integral face protection and became open-faced helmets with gracefully curved surfaces. In this simple state they were favoured by more lightly armed troops, especially archers and crossbowmen, whose uninterrupted vision was at a premium. For more heavily armoured troops, a greater level of protection could be afforded by the attachment of a plate re-inforce for the brow of the helmet and a deep visor, usually of the 'bellows' form which incorporated many ventilation slits. Such helmets would have been worn with a stiffened mail collar, termed a "standard," which protected the throat and neck. Some Italian-style sallets were provided with a covering of rich cloth, usually velvet, which was edged in silver-gilt, gilded brass or copper; ornamental decoration in the same metals could be added to the surface of the helmet, allowing areas of cloth to show through.
In the period 1450–1460, a distinctive German style of sallet appeared. It was round-skulled but was less curvaceous than the Italian sallet; its most obvious feature was that the rear of the helmet was drawn out into a long tail, sometimes consisting of a number of lames. One characteristic that distinguishes early German sallets from later German sallets up to c.1495, is the length of the helmet tail, which became more pronounced over time. The front of these helmets sometimes extended down to cover the upper face, with eye-slits provided for vision. Other versions retained the same outline, but the upper face was protected by a movable half-visor. German sallets were often worn with a separate scoop-shaped plate gorget, called a bevor, that extended from the upper chest to just below the nose and protected the wearer's lower face and throat. Most needed no added ventilation holes, as there was a natural gap where the visor or front of the helmet overlapped the bevor near the wearer's mouth.
By the mid 15th century, a regional variety of sallet had evolved in England and the Netherlands, termed the 'English-Burgundian style' (the Netherlands were at that time ruled by the Duke of Burgundy). It was usually worn with a bevor by more completely armoured soldiers and had very similar facial protection to, and frontal appearance as, the German sallet. It was, however, more curvaceous, and possessed a less extreme projection to the rear. In many ways, it was intermediate between the German and Italian forms. French sallets were very similar to the English-Burgundian type and all have been classed as "short-tailed sallets."
In the last generations of German sallets, the bevor was articulated from the same pivot as the visor. Initially the bevor was attached inside the skull. When the long tail at the rear of the helmet was eventually shortened, from c. 1495, these later sallets became virtually indistinguishable from close helmets, and the articulation of the bevor moved to the outside of the skull. The sallet was gradually abandoned for field use in the first two decades of the 16th century, being largely replaced by the close helm and burgonet; however, it was retained into the mid century, in a heavily reinforced form, for some types of jousting.
The German-style sallet was the model for the World War I German Stahlhelm, whereas the kettle hat inspired the contemporary British and French helmets. The sallet was the forerunner of the modern combat helmet and firefighter's helmet.
Italian bellows visored sallet (transitional from sallet to close helm)
Late example of a German visored sallet (transitional to the close helm), c. 1495. The bevor and the brow-reinforce attach to the same pivot as the upper visor, and the tail at the rear of the helmet is much shorter than in earlier forms.
Sallet with decorative sheathing in the shape of a lion's head, Italian, 1475–1480, Metropolitan Museum of Art
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