Monday, 29 December 2014

Bascinet and Hounskull visor for The battle of Shrewsbury painting.

At the battle of Shrewsbury the most common helmet worn by the higher classes was the Bascinet. this helmet consisted of a round helmet that covered the top and back of the head and sides of the face. From the lower edge a mail aventail was suspended on a leather strip via metal studs called vervelles. Beneath the aventail would have been a padded collar that made the mail form around the neck. This lining was often fixed to the mail and in some cases it was incorporated into the helmets lining.

Bascinet and Aventail of Sir Fulke de Pembrugge

The face was protected by a visor. Known as the Hounskull or Hundsgugel, it was a form of visor that covered the entire face and resembled the face of a dog ("hound" or, in German, "Hund"), with a protruding muzzle in order to better protect the face from blows and to grant greater ventilation. the name also reflects the fashion of a dog hood in the period. 
Prince Hal struck by an arrow.

The bascinet can be seen as a direct descendant of the 11th century conical helmet of the Norman period, its construction method changing little over a 300-year period. Primarily a single plate of iron is beaten out to form a bowl, and then extended at the top to a point. 
Great Bascinet

The original Norman pointed helmet soon developed into a more ovoid shape and the rear was extended down to cover the cheeks and back of the head. During the early 13th century the skull shaped bascinet used as secondary protection and was worn beneath the bucket shaped helm.   A similar shaped bascinet is seen on a 17th century engraved plate in the church at Mavesyn Ridware. 

See link

An early bascinet can be seen on the effigy of Simon de Leybourne. c1315. In the Church of St Mary, Shrewsbury, Shropshire  This simple bascinet shows the ovoid shape and protection of the back of the head and cheeks. A mail coif protects the neck and shoulders. This form of bascinet was often worn underneath the helm. 

 Other early bascinets were elaborately decorated with gilded patterned edging strips. In north Wales, a patterned strip running over the centre of the bascinet is seen on effigies.   In some cases the bascinet was fluted and raised into a point at the apex. 

In the early 14th century the mail coif was discarded or rather converted into a mail aventail.   The mail was stitched to a shaped leather strap, which was fitted around the neck and face of the bascinet via a series of studs called ‘vervelles’.   Most effigies show a decorative covering that protect the vervelle and stitching, this covering could be made from cloth, velvet or leather. 

Stafford Visor

Early bascinets developed a visor that covered the face. Originally, a simple curved plate that hinged at the temples, with eye slots and breathing holes, various designs must have made appearances some more successful than others, rounded noses with an extended plate that protected the neck can be seen on various manuscripts and stained glass windows.   The Visor of Stafford. 

The visor soon evolved into the more commonly known extended snout.   This shape known as the ‘hounskull’ or ‘pig-faced’ was a practical solution not only for extending the breathing area but also more importantly as a deflective surface that could throw sword, lance, and for arrow points away from the face. Pointed at the nose with breathes (holes for air) on the right hand side and narrow occularium (eye slots), the visor also had a pair of slots at the position of the mouth, but it is more likely that these were used to see down towards the feet rather than breathing through.

My Bascinet
The hounskull bascinet became universally used in the 14th century yet very few survive today, even fewer visors are in existence but a remarkable find was made at Pevensey castle in 1933. In a drain that once carried effluent was found a visor, broken into five pieces the visor must have been discarded when no longer needed.  (As the fashion for the bascinet declined, its practical use was maintained by passing the helmet onto lower soldiers and archers who had no need for the visor).  

Pevensey castle visor above. 

Examples of 14th century bascinets on effigies can be found across the country and at St Peters church, Elford in Staffordshire two fine examples can be seen.   The bascinet that Sir Thomas Arderne d 1391 wears has a central ridge that runs from the top down to the forehead; this ridge acts to deflect downward blows away from the centre of the head. 

An ‘orle’ surrounds the bascinet, decorated with elaborate embroidered flowers linked to each other with strings of pearls.  The original would have been made from velvet stuffed with hemp and covered with metallic threads, pearls and precious stones.  
Sir Thomas Arderne d 1391

The orle was originally used when smaller rounder bascinets were worn beneath a helm. Padding between the two helmets was essential to stop them from hitting each other and keeping the helmets firmly in place. When the visor negated the use of the helm the orle was retained for decoration only, (a practice on effigy design that was maintained long after its practical use had died out).


A realistically carved mail aventail is suspended from vervelles to protect the neck and shoulders and decorative plate runs across the forehead with the inscription 'Jesu & Maria'.

This form of decoration was common throughout the 14th and 15th century, but it is not often seen on the few remaining real bascinets in existence. It is possible that the expensive metal was removed when the helmet went out of fashion and was passed onto the foot soldier or archer, thus destroying all evidence of the plates.

Alternatively, the decoration was a sign of faith and was more often being carved on the monumental effigy than in real life. In either case, the decoration would not have been seen in battle, as the visor would have covered it.

To see Photographs of More Bascinets click here.


My Great Bascinet

Throughout the 14th century, the bascinet remained the key form of protection for the knightly orders, its aventail giving adequate protection from armed combat with other knights, but at the beginning of the 15th century a simple development of the shape of arrowhead would change all this. 

The armour piercing bodkin that made Agincourt infamous during the hundred years war played a key factor in the development and demise of the bascinet.

The armoured knight had remained considerably impregnable to traditional arrowheads and mail had suppressed the arrows strength by acting as a net that deflected the arrows inertia. The armour-piercing bodkin on the other hand could pass through the mails links thus rendering it useless. The aventail covering the neck and shoulders thus made the knight very vulnerable at this point. The bascinet would change once more and become the great bascinet.
The great bascinet removed the need for the aventail and replaced it with a plate gorget and a fine example can be seen at St Bartholomew’s church at Tong in Shropshire on the effigy of Sir Richard Vernon d 1451.

Sir Richards’s effigy depicts a suit of armour from around the 1420’s. Even though the design of the gorget made it impossible for anything to penetrate, it had one major flaw; the wearer could not turn his head without moving his whole body.   

Sir Richard Vernon 

This impracticality might not have had any effect on the knight’s ability to fight on horseback as in the 14th century.  However, by the 15th century it was more common to dismount and fight on foot, walking into battle surrounded by men at arms.  Not to have full flexibility of the head must have been a drawback, especially if lightly armoured men at arms and archers were on the field.  Having said this, the fashion for the great bascinet lasted at least twenty years, and after its demise in warfare, it still carried on in the tournament field.  

Henry or Hal as he was known when he was prince of Wales would have probably worn a bascinet with aventail and hounskull visor, the addition of a small plate around the front of the neck might have been possible but we will never know. What we do know, is that at some point during the battle, he lifted his visor and exposed his face to the armour piercing bodkin that struck him in his left cheek and entered deep into his throat.
My armour. Typical early 15th century, note the raised visor.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Battle of Shrewsbury 1403 Sir Robert Mavesyn

In my Battle of Shrewsbury painting there is a character who has been knocked down by an arrow situated in the centre of the picture. This knight is Sir Robert Mavesyn who died at the battle in 1403 fighting for King Henry IV against  Sir Henry Percy (Harry Hotspur) 

The 19th century monument to Sir Robert Mavesyn, who was killed at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 is situated in the Church of St Nicholas, Mavesyn Ridware, Note the small shields displaying his coat of arms.
Sir Robert's story is interesting as he survived single combat before the battle.

He had been in a longstanding feud with his neighbour Sir William Handsacre. Sir William supported the rebel Henry Percy, otherwise known as Hotspur, whilst Sir Robert supported Henry IV. 

‘As early as 1382 Robert Mavesyn had leased to John Hammond, fisherman, his fishery in the Trent at Bryggewater, between Handsacre and the Oxonholme Pool, and the miller, one Robert Mulner, got into dispute as to the boundary of the two parishes at the mill dam and floodgates. The dispute resulted in a feud and an affray, ending in a riot, in which the mill was burnt and Lawrence de Frodesley, of the Handsacre party was killed by the Mavesyns.’

On the eve of the Battle of Shrewsbury, the two knights met at the river Trent  and proceeded to take part in single combat.

Sir William was killed and Sir Robert carried on to Shrewsbury to fight with the king.

During the battle he was killed.
My unfinished painting of the Battle. Sir Robert hit by an arrow. (To see the painting in full  click on the link below).

A relief frieze of the story is situated in the church.

The Mavesyn Chapel
It is believed the church was founded in 1140 by Hugo de Mavesyn  who's effigy is seen here on the left.

The name ‘Mavesyn’ is derived from the name and family of Malvoisin, a French knight who came by the manor following the Conquest. The name reputedly means dangerous neighbour, being French for a siege tower that was constructed to attack castles in the Dark Ages. 

The painting will show Sir Robert with his coat of arms born on his jupon.

To see my painting of the battle follow 

Monday, 3 November 2014

My illustration of Sir John Walsh d1468 Meriden in Shropshire.

Sir John Walsh died 1468 from Meriden in Shropshire. Watercolour on paper 

The Illustration is taken fro the effigy and shows Sir John  in an unusual harness. The sallet  displays large decorative rivets and shows the sculptors difficulty in representing an open visor. 

Sir Johns effigy is carved from soft sandstone

 The gauntlets are semi mitten with a large plate covering the hand. the fingers have individual plates unlike the full mitten design.

 The pauldrons which protect the shoulders are stylised and probably a fanciful design rather than an accurate representation. Note the belt around the waist.

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Finished oil painting of Richard III and Sir Percival Thirlwall at Bosworth field

Banner now added to Sir Percival's lance.
Oil painting on canvas depicting the moment before Richard III is unhorsed.

The second rider is Sir Percival Thirlwall Richards standard bearer. The banner shows white roses and a white boar.  Richard’s special cognizant was a Boar rampant argent, armed and bristled.

Richard died at the Battle of Bosworth on Aug. 22, 1485, fighting an army led by Henry Tudor, who would become Henry VII. He was surrounded by enemy forces.  The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard's horse was stuck in the marshy ground. 

Painting before the addition of the banner

The style is more impressionistic than my usual methods and I've used the oil paint thickly to describe the shapes of the armour, sometimes using a palette knife to lay areas of colour down and then scratch through the paint to show edges.

Richards cavalry in the background are very loosely painted (above) and I still have to paint the troops of Henry entering from the left just behind the men-at-arms. (below)

 The standard will be added later when I am more sure of its form. (Now Added). Some say it should show Richards personal banner whilst others say the Royal standard. I prefer the personal banner.

The Standard added

And finally thanks to DSC's comment the crown. 

To see my other Richard III painting (Above) click link below

Two Illustrations of Ralph de Stafford

Ralph de Stafford born 24th September 1301, died 31st August 1372. He was 2nd Baron of Stafford and 1st Earl of Stafford, was a Knight of the Garter and a soldier during the Hundred Years War. He supported the plot to free Edward III  from the control of Roger Mortimer  he fought in Scotland on four campaigns, commanding archers at the Battle of Dupplin Moor on 11 Aug 1332.
My Cutaway illustration of the visor showing position of chin and neck. Watercolour on paper.

In France during 1338 his military career saw him accompanying King Edward and he was present at the battle of Sluys on 24 June 1340. He also fought at the relief of Brest and the siege of Morlaix. He was captured at Vannes being released to be present at the negotiations of a truce at Malestroit.

On 6 January 1341, he was made Steward of the Royal Household and in 1345 he became Seneschal of Aquitaine. He attended the battle of Auberoche, the siege of Aiguillon, and the Battle of Crecy.

 He became one of the twenty-six founding members and the fifth Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1348
Sir Ralph Stafford as seen on the Hastings Brass monument

My illustration is taken from the Hastings Brass monument,  he wears an early bascinet with neck guard on the visor. A copy of this helmet has been made and is on display at the Stafford castle museum.
The cutaway illustration that I painted (at top of page) reveals the level of protection the visor gives to face and neck.

Modern reproduction at Stafford castle museum.
My illustration of Ralph de Stafford as he would have looked. Taken from his depiction on a brass  monument.

To find out how I  painted the Stafford  illustration click the yellow link below. 

To Learn about my illustrated book on armour click yellow link below  

Monday, 20 October 2014

Using Spectrum Noir Markers

My first attempts made with Spectrum Noir (SN) and Docrafts artiste (DA) markers. These Felt pens are designed for card makers and come in sets of six for the SN at around £7.00p. per set and twelve for the DA markers which are around the same price. this is a considerable saving when comparing them to illustrators pens. Both have a wide range of colours with sets that graduate from light to dark tonal differences.

 The SN pens have a fine and chisel nib at either end. 

The two pictures here use 'Cool grey' and 'Brown grey'. NA sets and they blend wonderfully, if you buy the new sets which are hexagonal in profile you(The older pens are square in profile) You can exchange the chisel nib for a brush nib.

They are also refillable with the spirit based inks.

I also purchased the essentials set which has a blender pen which is very useful for making smooth gradations.

Early to mid 15th century harness 
To see another mid 15th century harness click here 

To help the image I used a white pencil to add highlights. This is quite a good technique used by car designers and was especially good for highlighting the edges of armour plates. I also used a fine liner from the Docrafts pens to help with fine line shadows.

The red hose and leather straps plus the wooden cue for the axe use the Docrafts pens with white pencil to add highlights

The trick in using these pens is to firstly use a very smooth paper, I use a smooth Bristol board sketchpad. secondly, always work from the lightest shade changing pens as you go darker and blending as you go. I ignored the lines made by plates joining such as those on the knee and helmet. just blend right through and when happy with the result then add the thin dark line where the plates meet. On top of this I then added white Pencil lines where the light catches on the joints and lastly a gentle blending of white pencil where the light creates highlights.

16th century Close helm

VERY BASIC blending can be seen on a short film. Its not armour but its useful to see.

To see my other painting methods follow

To see my book follow

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sir Miles Stapleton 1320?–1364.

My Illustration of Sir Miles Stapleton 1320?–1364. He was one of the Knights Founder of the Order of the Garter, was at the Siege of Tournai in 1340. He died of wounds received in the battle of Auray. Sir Miles is seen here as he would have looked if wearing the armour he is depicted in on his Brass monument.

My Illustration in watercolour

The Brass of Sir Miles Stapleton displays the typical Stud and Splint armour of the mid to late-fourteenth century. The design of the brass is stylized, being elongated, which gives the figure a graceful composure but it is unlikely that Sir Miles was anything as tall and slender as his monument suggests. Having said this, most knights and men-at-arms would have been exceptionally fit, and examples of breastplates in the Royal armouries and other museums bear witness to the wasp-wasted figures that some men possessed during this period.
The helmet is of the Bascinet and aventail design, the mail being short, just reaching the shoulders and beneath would have been a padded  lining, the vervelles that hold the mail to the Bascinet are clearly be seen. This type of helmet would have had a removable visor that pivoted from studs at the sides. The shape of the visor for this type of helmet was usually pointed to a greater or lesser degree with varying numbers of breathing holes called Breathes. 

Usually a higher number of breathes occurred on the right  side of the visor, the left being the shielded side and expected to receive more blows in combat. The point of the visor gave the helmet a dog’s skull appearance giving rise to its name ‘hounskull’ but its main occupation was to deflect blows or arrow strikes away from the face. The visor was fixed with removable pins that hinged, enabling it to be taken off the helmet. The pins were usually suspended from the visor on a short chain so that they would not be lost. In Germany, the Hounskull visor was employed with a different fixing. A single hinge situated at the forehead was permanently fixed to the visor via rivets and was in turn attached to the helmet via two or three studs, a pivoted flat plate could then be swivelled over the hinge to lock it into place. This type of visor was known as a Klappvisier.

Often, especially during tournaments, a Helm was worn above the bascinet without the visor.

The body armour of Sir Miles consist of a short mail coat reaching down to the hips called a Haubergeon, this garment had sleeves that protected the armpits and inner elbow gussets.  Above this is a studded garment, which is a representation of either a cloth, covered breastplate or a coat of plates, the evenly spaced studs suggest the latter.  The Brass of Sir Ralph de Kneyvnton, Aveley, Essex, c1370, however displays a garment that has two semicircles of studs at the chest and a series of studs in rows below the waist. We can determine that his coat is of a covered plate design due its rounded appearance and to the chains depicted suspended from it. These chains were designed to hold a sword and dagger if dropped in battle and would have required a metal plate to support the weight of the weapons or in some cases a helmet. 

The studs at the lower half of this body armour could have been to hold a set of plates that surrounded the hips known as a Fauld. Earlier depictions of support chains show the fixings terminating at the belt (brass of Sir Roger de Trumpington 1289 Cambs) but by the 1340’s the coat of plates is seen in sculptures and manuscripts with chain fixings. (Statue of the Guard at the holy Sepuchre 1345 Musee de l’Oeuvres Notre Dame) and by the time of Sir Miles death the breastplate was employed by those wealthy enough to afford the expense.

Gutter shaped plates with a spaudler and three lames covering the shoulder and a couter with two lames protecting the elbow protect the arms. These are of typical design for the period and two small straps can be seen to hold the upper canon as it is known, also a strap holding the couter is seen on his right arm. The lower cannons have no discernable fixings but on other brasses, hinges can clearly be seen and in some cases, a fixing stud that clips into place when the hinges are closed is visible.

The leg armour of Sir Miles clearly shows the Stud and Splint method. The cuisses have rows of studs that reinforce leather plates. The knees have cup shaped poleyns that are riveted to the cuisses at the top and have a leather decoration riveted to the lower edge. The poleyns are also leather that has been moulded to fit the calf and ankle. Vertical metal strips have then been riveted to the plates to reinforce the armour.

The sabatons are pointed, which followed the common civilian shoe fashion and the gauntlets, which are of the hourglass design, are the only pieces that have ornamental edging strips.

An interesting illustration of Sir Miles in later armour and robes can be seen in the Bruges Garter Book.  This beautifully illustrated book was made for William Bruges (1375-1450) in the 15th-century and portrays the founder knights of the Order of the Garter.  Sir Miles is depicted in later full plate armour with fingerless gauntlets, worn above the armour is a tabard bearing his coat of arms and above this is his garter robe. 

My First pencil sketch

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