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"Non-Regulation Helmet of General Officer of Cuirassiers" Topic

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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Cuirassier24 Apr 2018 9:58 p.m. PST

Which French General (or Marshal) was the original owner of this helmet? Thanks in advance.


Image taken from the sales catalog for "The Charles Bremner Hogg Jackson Collection". Jackson was an avid collector who left his collection to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. A large portion of the collection, French militaria from the 1st Empire, was considered beyond the scope of the Smithsonian and it was therefore sold via auction in 1996.

von Winterfeldt25 Apr 2018 12:24 a.m. PST

is this really 1st Empire?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP25 Apr 2018 12:25 a.m. PST

@ von W

My thoughts exactly.

mollinary25 Apr 2018 1:22 a.m. PST

The date on the front appears to be Decembre 1804, when Napoleon held his coronation (not his accession to the throne). Perhaps it was designed for some guards at the coronation ceremony?

Sho Boki25 Apr 2018 1:59 a.m. PST

Also it fits well with Jérôme Bonaparte's King of Westphalian parade cuirasse.

Le Breton Inactive Member25 Apr 2018 2:20 a.m. PST

It is an oddity.
The Butterfield & Butterfield expert termed it "In the sytle of the First Empire".
The shape is pretty good for a 1st Empire carabinier officer's helmet.
See : link
Below the "N" cypher on the front plate is a label "2 DECEMBER 1804" – but the Republican calendar was still in use at the time of Napoléon's coronation. And that label looks modern to me.
But overall, I rather like the style and detailing for a général de cavalerie ca. 1810, for the imperial (re-)marriage.
Maybe something like a Romel or Raymond Rey …. but I thought that they copied real examples.

Some comparisons ….

Cuirasse et casque de parade de Napoléon Ier, 1807
Napoléon projeta de doter ses maréchaux d'armures de parade. Deux prototypes furent livrés pour l'Empereur et le maréchal Berthier peu après la victoire de Friedland en juin 1807. Le projet resta sans suite et les deux cuirasses demeurèrent en possession de Berthier

Reproduction of the casque


Cuirasse et casque du colonel de 3e cuiraissiers



Colonel-général de cuirassiers (Gouvion St. Cyr) et général de cuirassiers (Kellerman)


Colonel-général de cuirassiers, 1804


Roi Jérôme's casque ….



Cuirassier25 Apr 2018 6:41 a.m. PST

"The shape is pretty good for a 1st Empire carabinier officer's helmet."

Good catch, Le Breton.

Could it be a fake?

A lost prototype? Something like "helmet of Colonel-général de Carabiniers à Cheval". ;-)

Artilleryman25 Apr 2018 10:05 a.m. PST

Or is it a Second Empire item?

Le Breton Inactive Member25 Apr 2018 10:55 a.m. PST

Can anyone locate a depiction of the casque designed by Jacques-Louis David for the concept of "cuirassiers de la garde"?

"N" cypher & grenade, general shape, no turban = carabinier à cheval
Crinière, marmouset = cuirassier
The "blackened steel" color is maybe more like a curassier style variant.
The decoration is clearly more than for a colonel.
I find it hard to reconcile the late era overall style with the lack of a turban but the presence of the crinière.

Not too likley that it was for a colonel-général ….

There was a colonel-général of carabiniers : Louis Bonaparte until he was made king of Holland – but the uniform was the early type, with bearskin. I know of no initiative to re-grant the title before the restoration. Please, if someone knows of such, it would be interesting.

The first colonel-général of curassiers was Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, succeeded by the comte Belliard from the end of 1812. We have the design of the casque for 1804 for this office (see above). I see no reason for changing it, in the very unlikely chance that Belliard ever had armor made for him.

Maybe for a général commanding both cuirassiers and carabiniers à cheval sometime 1810-1812 (I doubt that anyone would bother with special boutique armor after that). There were rather few divisional or corps formations that included the carabiniers à cheval and the cuirassiers durign the given period. But someone might have designed a casque for one of these commanders.

If I had to make a guess, I would say it was a design for the comte Nansouty, who was an advocate for putting the carabiniers into armor, as well as serving as premier écuyer to Napoléon.

For the actual example we have here, my best bet is that it is early 20th century fabrication (such as those made by Romel and Raymond Rey) of a design created in the era.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP26 Apr 2018 12:12 a.m. PST

As there was a brigade of carabiniers, i.e. a general de brigade's command, there must have been a carabinier general's uniform also?

Le Breton Inactive Member26 Apr 2018 4:06 a.m. PST

If there was a design submitted as an official pattern for a "général de carabiniers", I doubt it would have included the crinière and marmouset.

That's why I supposed above that we may have a design intended for a général de division commanding both carabiniers à cheval and cuirassiers.

And none of the "généraux de carabiniers" would seem to have had time after their appointments to order a personal "boutique" armor.

génénaux de brigade commandants d'une brigade de carabiniers à cheval après 1809 ….

le comte Jean-Marie-Antoine Defrance
21 septembre 1806 – 19 juillet 1810

le baron Joseph Bouvier des Éclaz (brigade formé du 1er régiment)
31 janvier 1812 – 3 mars 1813

le baron Louis-Claude Chouard (brigade formé du 2e régiment)
1 mai 1812 – 19 avril 1813

le baron François-Charles-Jean-Pierre-Marie d'Haugéranville d'Avranges
12 juin 1813 – 18 octobre 1813 (blessé et fait prisonnier à Leipsig)

le baron Amable-Guy Blancard
2 décembre 1813 – 15 mai 1814
22 avril 1815 – 18 juin 1815 (blessé à Mon-Saint-Jean)

le comte François-Nicolas-René de Perusse d'Escars
1ere restauration

marshalGreg27 Apr 2018 1:09 p.m. PST

Probably best to look into the 2nd Empire!


Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP27 Apr 2018 1:35 p.m. PST

The obvious answer I would agree.

Any antique with a Napoleonic pedigree needs much scepticism.

The difference between First and Second Empire is in terms of cost and about ten/twenty fold, if there is that provenance.

Second Empire helmets were slightly lower and less elegantly sloped back. The Classical style, shown here, is either genuine early first Empire and worth a real fortune……or a 50/70 year later repro and worth 5% of that.

With no provenance, whatsoever, offered….I know my thoughts here.

Even Restoration Royalist helmets do brilliantly at auction…but this is an odd one

Le Breton Inactive Member27 Apr 2018 6:40 p.m. PST

I am not perfect on 2nd Empire casques. I did try to look for a match among them and could not find one. But I easily could have missed something.

By style, I have to agree with Mr. Deadhead : other than the "label" with the date, all the style points say "1st Empire" to me. The label, in all capital letters, not in Republican date, without "le" 2 "de" décembre 1804 – that label strikes me as much later than 1st Empire

And, whenever it was designed, I think it is still of 20th centruy manufacture, as I commented above.

Mr. Deadhead, the Romel and Raymond Rey copies usually go for about 30-45% of the real pieces. They are really almost perfect replicas in every way, except that they were not made in the era. Personally, I would be almost more happy with one of these replicas (in really "as new" condition, at less than 1/2 price) than a real heirloom, which I always wish to have been conserved by the officer's family.

Cuirassier27 Apr 2018 10:37 p.m. PST

Second French Empire






Lieutenant of the 1st Regiment of Cuirassiers of the French Imperial Guard (photo taken between 1854 and 1860).



Carabiniers à Cheval, including Carabiniers of the French Imperial Guard. Photos taken between 1862 and 1866.


Two more Carabiniers…




Line Cuirassier in grande tenue. Sous-Lieutenant of the 5th Cuirassiers. Photo taken in 1863.


Cuirassier27 Apr 2018 11:04 p.m. PST

The two models of French line cuirassier's helmets…

Model 1845





Model 1858




Le Breton Inactive Member28 Apr 2018 2:57 a.m. PST

casque du cent gardes, 2e empire


Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2018 3:42 a.m. PST

Well whatever the answer to the question posed initially, we have been rewarded with some superb quality images and I ma fascinated by le Breton's info on the potential value of such replicas. Very good point he makes that the originals should be retained by the families and/or on display for all to see and not just going to the wealthiest and highest bidder.

But there would be quite something to handle anything that really was there on 18th June. I resisted the "real balls" dug up on the battlefield sold in the Wellington Museum, Waterloo as, unless I see them emerge myself……….

Le Breton Inactive Member29 Apr 2018 4:30 a.m. PST

Dear Mr. Deadhead,

There are indeed some collectors who find that returning artefacts to the families of their historical owners is far more rewarding than keeping the items in a cabinet in their libraries. Determining the original owner is not usually possible, and often there are then no descendants. But when you can finally make the connection, it is a great result for your detective work.

My daughter and her friends do even harder work : they spend holidays recovering the remains of Soviet soldiers from World War 2 battlefields, often finding bits of uniform or ID capsules or similar that can be returned to the families. The remains are then enterred with full military honors and Orthodox religious rites. These can be quite moving ceremonies, or at least they are to me.

I admire greatly these young people for doing this, as the Soviets, unlike my beloved America, did not ever make much effort to recover the remains of their fallen. My daughter and her friends are to some extent "Golden Youth" as they are called in Russia – affluent, educated, priveleged and sometimes rather spoiled brats. But they are good Russians in their hearts.

P.S. – You have a very keen eye for the style points in these pieces, Mr. Deadhead – you would make a great collector or "experte" for an auction house!

Le Breton Inactive Member29 Apr 2018 6:20 a.m. PST

Close-ish ….

caque de mousquetaire gris du maison du Roi (1ere restauration)



I am starting to think that maybe this was the design for the proposed "curassiers de la garde" for Napoléon 1er (ca. 1810)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2018 8:01 a.m. PST

The First Restoration surely introduced the most incredibly, stylish, smartish, sophisticated outfits of the era.

Fabulous quality of image for Grey Musketeers…. my favourite is the Black. That odd style that is so 1815-18, the crested comb helmet, but also with the horse's tail. A very short lived look.

Totally rubbish units.

But I am totally obsessed with the outfits produced in that short gap 1814-15. Styles way beyond most contemporary accepted ……but, within a decade, de rigeur. They just looked fantastic. They were rubbish I admit.

Le Breton Inactive Member30 May 2018 8:33 p.m. PST

The OP's casque may well be of the design proposed in 1807 for general officers of cuirssiers, but not adopted until the Cent Jours (and hence there was not too much time for them to have been made in the era).

The 1807 design is described in the Carnet de la Sabretache for 1894, pages 98-99.

The OP's casque differs most from the 1807 description by changing the proposed imperial eagle motif for a crowned "N". The crowned "N" became increasingly standard as a uniform decoration from 1810.

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