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.