A Korean helmet of the Imjin wars period | Peter Dekker's Mandarin Mansion: Antique Arms & Armor

A Korean helmet of the Imjin wars period

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

Overall height: 25 cm
Cone height 20 cm
Measured across: 21 cm
Measured back to front: 21.5 cm
Measured back to front including visor: 29 cm
Steel thickness 1 mm
Weight: 876 grams

Origin: Korea
Materials: Steel
Dating: Late 16th century

Provenance: Japanese antiques market


Description

Korean helmets are rare enough, but this is an exceedingly example of an early type of Korean soldier's helmet. Its dome is made out of four pieces, joined together by means of riveting them over four sheets that overlap the seams. The sheets are ribbed for extra strength. On top is a small conical peak that holds a plume holder. Its most characteristic feature is the elongated visor, comprising of a single piece of steel that projects forward. The long visor probably protected the face from harm coming from above, such as things thrown down besieging a wall, or longer range volleys of arrows. The visor is hollow for added rigidity. Stylistically the helmet is an in-between phase between the early Korean helmets with a full brim and later examples with a shorter visor, after the Mongolian / Jin models.

Quality and finish suggest it is a strictly utilitarian helmet, probably worn by a soldier. It is in decent condition for its age, with no recent repairs save for a small number of rivets that seem of a later date, but are patinated to blend in well. There are some losses to the underside of the dome, mainly near the ears. The helmet's underside has a great amount of holes to which the protective neck flaps were attached.


Dating & attribution

There is a helmet with comparable forward projecting visor and ribbed plates attributed to prominent scholar-official Ryu Seong-ryong and said to have been worn by him during the Imjin wars. It has been displayed at The National Folk Museum of Korea.1


An  Korean helmet from the Imjin wars period, attributed to Ryu-Seong-Ryong
The helmet attributed to Ryu Seng-ryong in the National Folk Museum of Korea. Note the ribbed sections on each seam, like on our example.

There is also a 17th century handscroll depicting the Imjin wars on which various helmets are depicted, among which several figures wearing a helmet quite similar to this one:


17th century handscroll of the Imjin wars
Detail of the 17th century handscroll depicting the Imjin wars. Current whereabouts unknown.


Conclusion

A rare early style of Korean soldier's helmet with elongated visor. It is of a type that was used during the Imjin wars of the late 16th century, and was possibly preserved as a war trophy from this event.

Price on request



Interested? Questions?
Contact peter@mandarinmansion.com

Notes to description
1. This helmet is featured in an online article of the Korea Herald.

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars
(The dark areas are oil I used on the outside that seeped through the seams.)

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

An antique Korean helmet probably from the Imjin wars

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