Help support TMP

"Painted helmets" Topic

11 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Medieval Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the Dark Ages Message Board

Areas of Interest


Featured Hobby News Article

Top-Rated Ruleset

Lion Rampant

Rating: gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star gold star 

Featured Showcase Article

Battle-Market: Tannenberg 1410

The Editor tries out a boardgame - yes, a boardgame - from battle-market magazine.

Featured Profile Article

The Gates of Old Jerusalem

The gates of Old Jerusalem offer a wide variety of scenario possibilities.

Featured Book Review

Featured Movie Review

1,082 hits since 11 Jun 2020
©1994-2021 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Dn Jackson12 Jun 2020 4:15 p.m. PST

I'm working on a Dark Ages project and had a question for the collective here on TMP.

In my reading I've found several references and illustrations of Dark Ages troops with painted helmets. So, here are my questions:

1. How wide spread was this practice? I've found illustrations of Bretons at Hastings and Normans in the Mediterranean. Does anyone know of anyone else who did this?

2. What illustrations, modern or period, are out there? I'd like to have some references so my troops look realistic.

3. Any idea how widespread it was within an army? Was this something done by one in ten men, or one in a hundred, or only the king?

I appreciate any help you can offer. I've tried Google with no luck, and while I have a large library of my own, I don't have too much on this rather esoteric topic.

Prince Alberts Revenge12 Jun 2020 7:47 p.m. PST

I'm not sure how much reference there is. When I was painting my Normans, it was probably a 1 out of 4 or 5 for the mounted. Less for the infantry. I typically tied the colors into a theme with the shield. Not sure how accurate it is but it looked right to my eye.

Cerdic12 Jun 2020 10:58 p.m. PST

As 21st Century people, we have grown up with the concept of the 'knight in shining armour'. Modern pictures in books, film, TV etc almost always show bare-metal armour.

But there are contemporary images which certainly suggest painted helmets.

My opinion is that paint was probably more common than we think. Quite apart from the fact that Dark Age/Medieval people had a taste for leerily bright decoration, iron and steel rust like crazy if not protected. Of course, you could apply some sort of wax or polish every couple of days. Or just whack some paint on and be done with it…

Swampster13 Jun 2020 12:45 a.m. PST

There are certainly plenty of manuscript illustrations showing helmets which are obviously supposed to be bare metal; this would suggest that there wasn't necessarily a _need_ to paint the helmets.

FWIW, the illustrations at Manuscript Miniatures (my current fave source) show(probably) no painted helmets before about 1100 and quite a lot subsequent to that. There are earlier ones in colour, but they seem to have the mail in the same colour. After about 1100 you can see figures in metal coloured mail but colourful helmets – eventually simple proto-heraldry starts to be applied as well.

I doubt that there was really such a sudden change in fashion, but I would make them sparse for any time before 1100.

Pauls Bods14 Jun 2020 2:26 a.m. PST

I can aso highly recommend Manuscript Miniatures
Painted Helmets
Nasal Helmet

GamesPoet Supporting Member of TMP14 Jun 2020 9:35 a.m. PST

Regarding the link to painted helms, for the picture with the caption "1194-1196 Italy", does anyone know anything about why there are crosses on the helms?

Also, there is mention of Frederic in the caption at top of manuscript, although Frederic I died in 1190, and Federic the II was born in 1196. Can anyone explain and interpet the caption?

Swampster15 Jun 2020 3:47 a.m. PST

1194-96 is the date the manuscript was made. It is Fred Barbarossa off on the crusades. The same page has a picture which shows him being drowned and his ascension to heaven.
link has the whole thing. You can find a summary of each page too.

Dn Jackson16 Jun 2020 2:01 a.m. PST

Thanks guys. This helps a lot.

Cerdic16 Jun 2020 7:29 a.m. PST

An interesting thing about those manuscripts is the amount of bare armour, nasal helmets, and 'kite' shields quite late in the 12th Century. They suggest that maybe the 'surcoat and helm' look only became common in the 13th Century.

That'll mean a bit of a rethink for Richard the Lionheart era armies! But you can use your Norman Conquest era figures for quite a long timespan…

Swampster17 Jun 2020 1:10 a.m. PST

Yes – quite a lot of 'late Crusade' figures are suitable for the mid-13th century – like St Louis' crusades – but not for the iconic 3rd Crusade.

Normans do look better, though various things like leg armour do start appearing soon after the conquest.

French Wargame Holidays09 Nov 2020 1:22 p.m. PST

If you look at the later crusade manuscripts seems there are a lot of painted helmets.

I have started a article for my blog on the very subject!


Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.