The Helmet of Ivan the Terrible in the Context of Court Culture Cover Image

Шлем Ивана Грозного в контексте придворной культуры
The Helmet of Ivan the Terrible in the Context of Court Culture

Author(s): Sergey Nikolaevich Bogatyrev
Subject(s): History
Published by: Издательство Исторического факультета СПбГУ
Keywords: regalia; ceremonial weapon; epigraphy; Livrustkammaren; ideology; autocracy; court culture; Vasilii III; Ivan the Terrible

Summary/Abstract: Created in 1530–1533, the helmet of Ivan the Terrible from the Royal Armoury (Livrustkammaren) in Stockholm is one of the earliest surviving regalia of the Muscovite dynasty. This paper examines the helmet from different perspectives: its provenance, epigraphic programme, decor and functions. On the basis of the registries of the museum collection as well as Swedish and Russian studies of the object the paper revisits various theories about how the helmet appeared in the Livrustkammaren. At this stage of research no direct evidence supporting any of the theories has been detected. However, circumstantial evidence corroborates Karl Erik Steneberg’s idea that the helmet was taken as war booty during one of numerous military conflicts between Russia and Sweden. The helmet features a Cyrillic inscription and a pseudographic ideogram imitating Islamic calligraphy. This combination of symbols confirms the view of those Swedish scholars who have argued that the helmet was made in Moscow. The text and the ideogram on the helmet constitute, following Simon Franklin’s taxonomy, secondary writing that is integral to the object, but is not the main purpose of it. The helmet’s decor indicates that the primary function of the headgear was symbolic. The textual and graphical design of the helmet is consistent with other objects of court culture typical of the nascent stage of Muscovite autocracy during the reigns of Ivan III and Vasilii III. Claims that the helmet is a later forgery are therefore groundless. The Cyrillic inscription on the helmet confirms the traditional attribution of the helmet to the minor Ivan the Terrible. Like some coins minted under Ivan III and Vasilii III, the helmet proclaims the continuity of power in the Muscovite dynasty by representing the heir as a would-be warrior through a combination of elements of Islamic art and declarative Cyrillic inscriptions.

  • Issue Year: 2014
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 112-140
  • Page Count: 29
  • Language: Russian