History of War
In early 15th-century Italy, forms of the basinet appear to have been modified to produce a more round-topped helmet covering the head, with a wide arched face opening and slightly drawn out tail, and sometimes a visor. This became known as the sallet, from the Italian ‘celata’. A slightly conical form called the barbut emerged in about 1430 that reached to the shoulders, with the sides extending round to protect the cheeks, giving a ‘T’ shaped face opening. In some examples the sights were oval, the so-called Corinthian style, making them look like ancient Greek helmets. This type tended to disappear around 1470.
The sallet spread to north-western Europe, where it often had a pointed bowl. At first the visor barely covered the nose but by 1450 the bowl reduced in depth and became level with it. In about 1470 in German lands a kettle-hat with a sight cut into the brim was given a tail and merged with the Western European form of sallet to produce a distinctive German sallet: often deeper and with a straight lower edge and long tail, the so-called sou’wester form. Here some sallets had a visor with a sight formed from the upper edge of the visor and lower edge of the helmet brow; others simply had a sight cut into the front of the helmet, copying forms of kettle-hat.
To additionally protect the chin and throat many sallets often had a bevor with extra gorget plates attached to the lower edge, this being strapped round the neck or sometimes attached to the breastplate. Italian armourers often made ‘export’ sallets in the style of the country they were selling to.
At the end of the 15th century a few German sallets were made with a bevor that pivoted at the same points as the visor. Early in the 16th century versions were made with the neck shaped more closely and a bevor covering much of the face, requiring only a small visor. Known as the close helmet, before long it was so similar in shape to the armet that the only difference was in the way the helmets opened to put them on — the close helmet lifting out front to back and the armet opening at the sides. Some had their lower edges turned over so that, as they were closed, they engaged with the out-turned flange of a plate collar and locked over it, giving solid protection but enabling the neck to swivel on the flange as the head was turned.