Painted Italian Helmet and Breast Plate, 17th-18th century

This set is a rare Italian painted helmet and matching breastplate from Pisa during the 17th century with characteristic 18th century alterations. The breast-plate is incised on the inside with a large T for Tramontana and the helmet interior is painted with a large letter T also for Tramontana, together with the letter A and numbered 50. The helmet is decorated with a Maltese cross of the Order of the Knights of Saint Stephen on each side at the rear, the breast-plate en suite, the cross painted large over the center, and all on a contrasting white painted ground.

The Holy Military Order of The Knights of Saint Stephen, Pope and Martyr was instituted by Cosimo I de Medici, on October 1st, 1561, and consecrated in Pisa on March 15, 1562, by the nuncio of Pope Pius IV. The goal of the Order was to defend the Catholic faith and to eradicate the Muslim pirates from the Mediterranean. The St. Stephen Order was headquartered in a Pisan palace and the Knights took responsibility for the presidency and the refereeing of the Gioco del Ponte; they were also involved in the supply of equipment and the administration of some sections. The command of the sections was given either to a member of the Grand-ducal family, to a high-ranking officer of the Medici’s or to a Pisan aristocrat.



Filippo Negroli  (Italian, Milan, ca. 1510–1579)

Date:dated 1543

Culture:Italian, Milan

Medium:Embossed steel damascened with gold

Dimensions:H. 9 ½ in. (24.13 cm) Gr. W. 7 5/16 in. (18.57 cm) Wt. 4 lb. 2 oz. (1871 gm)


This masterpiece of Renaissance metalwork is signed on the browplate by Filippo Negroli, whose embossed armor was praised by sixteenth-century writers as “miraculous” and deserving “immortal merit.” Formed of one plate of steel and patinated to look like bronze, the bowl is raised in high relief with motifs inspired by classical art. The graceful mermaidlike siren forming the helmet’s comb holds a grimacing head of Medusa by the hair. The sides of the helmet are covered with acanthus scrolls inhabited by putti, a motif ultimately derived from ancient Roman sculpture and wall paintings


M33 Clone: The M51/72

In the early years of the Cold War the Bulgarian military sought the replacement of their old wartime equipment in favor of indigenously-produced combat systems. The M36 stahlhelm, Bulgaria’s WWII combat helmet, manufactured initially in Nazi Germany, would find its replacement in the form of a clone of the Italian M33. The M36 stahlhelm shows incredible influence from Nazi Germany’s own stahlhelms. It was also the prewar replacement for Bulgaria’s French Adrians. The M36 came in 3 progressive variants: the A the B and the C. Later a ‘short visor’ variant of the M36C, the M39 featuring a shorter brim, was also produced (In the third to last picture above, two M36C helmets are featured on either side of an M51/72). By the 1950s all but the M36C had been retired.

To supplement the M36C, Bulgaria looked to another Axis power for inspiration: Italy. Bulgaria had had a constructive military partnership with Italy during the war, the Bulgarians fielding a number of Italian trucks, armored vehicles, carcano rifles and other weapons throughout the war. I like to think that the Bulgarians were so impressed with this Italian weaponry (A machinegun fed by 50 round stripper clip? Brilliant!) that they sought to emulate their helmets as well. If it’s not a sad statement about indigenous Bulgarian equipment c.WWII, it’s a testament to the design quality of the M33, which I do believe is a solidly-built and comfortable helmet.

The M51/72, in standard Bulgarian service green, can be seen in the first picture between the tan and grey M33s. Pictures 3-6 compare/contrast the M51/72 visor with those of the M33s. 7-9 displays two M36Cs, one with Bulgarian tricolor decal. Both the M51/72 and the M36C have served the Bulgarian military into the post-Cold War era.




Another two helmet credits to my brother.


@tommytotti99 durante le prove di ieri sull'Isola di Man ✊🏼✊🏼✊🏼 #GASSSS 🇮🇹 #iomTT #isleofman #ITaLiANS #ManxGrandPrix #Fullthrottle #Moto #kawasaki @kawasaki_italia @kawasaki • #helmet @nolangroup • #mgp #iom #donnaracing #video 🏁🏁🏁 (presso TT Grandstand)



In the 1920s-30s, Italy, under the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini, pursued a massive military industrialization and rearmament program which would make Italian military equipment worthy of a military of the 1930s (or, more realistically, of a military of the 1920s). The early thirties would see new small arms, aircraft, armored vehicles, and other materiel produced by Fascist Italy to be used in Mussolini’s vain attempt to reconstruct the Roman Empire, in conflicts in Ethiopia (1935), Albania (1939), the North African occupation, and throughout the Second World War. For the wars he envisioned his Mediterranean Empire would fight, Mussolini wanted to equip his soldiers with a new, indigenous helmet to replace the French-made Adrian helmets the Italians had used in WWI. The Italians came up with two helmet models: the M33 (Three helmets in the front of Top 3 pictures) and what would become known as the M34/39 (Back two of Top 3, and Front two of Bottom 2)

The M34/39 was an initial prototype for a new Italian helmet. Noted by quality testers was the inferior protection (against shrapnel/debris) these helmets offered, owed to by the limited amount of steel used in its design (it is an extremely light helmet). Unfortunately for the Italian military they had already made a slew of these. So they did what any other country that’s made faulty military gear would do: they exported them. In this case, the receiving country was Greece, another nation seeking to replace their WWI Adrians. Since M34/39 saw limited production, the Greek military could only partially supply its army with these Italian rejects, so the Adrian would remain in Greek service until the end of WWII. Greece would additionally employ British Mk.II Brodie helmets by late 1940 after Britain pledged their support against the Italian invasion. The M34/39s pictured above are both Greek military dated WWII and retain their original paint.

The M33 would see Italy through its many, mostly unsuccessful, wars of Mediterranean imperialism (plus Stalingrad and the Spanish Civil War), from 1935-1943. The M33s above represent three different branches of the Italian military (at least two have most likely been repainted). The tan M33 on the left would be seen in North Africa and Ethiopia in the service of the Italian army. The blue M33 on the right might be either navy WWII (clearly repainted) or a postwar reassignment. The eagle decal on the darker one in the center indicates its use in the air force. Compared with the feather-light, paper thin M34/39, the M33 is heftier but remains a relatively light, small, and actually comfortable helmet. 

These two helmets would see combat against one another in the October 1940 invasion of Greece by Italy. Greek forces, though poorly supplied, awkwardly positioned, and equipped with third-rate combat systems, none of which were standardized, including the M34/39 helmet, repelled a materially superior Italian army, pushing them 1/3rd of the way into Albania where they remained until the Germans bailed them out in April 41. This ultimate irony in Italy’s helmet history illustrates an important reality of war: It doesn’t matter what your equipment is if you don’t use it well.

Two helmet credits to my brother.

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