Rare armour collection set to march into Bonhams next month


Bonhams' sale of Fine Antique Arms and Armour on Wednesday, July 20 at Knightsbridge includes a superb collection of unique armour acquired during the lifetime of doctor Peter Parsons.

It was perhaps a strange interest for a man who spent his life dealing with injured humans, but given that this stunningly beautiful material was designed to limit wound damage, not that surprising.

Among the items in the sale is a 16th Century Saxon Electoral Guard Comb Morion helmet from Nuremberg, bearing figures of Mutius Scaevola and of Marcus Curtius leaping into the gulf, and the arms of Saxony and the insignia of the Arch-marshalcy of the Holy Roman Empire.

It is estimated to sell for £8,000-12,000 ($12,812-19,218). This item is from the group of helmets made for the Trabantan guard of the Prince Electors of Saxony. A large number of these morions are believed to have been given to the Dresden Opera House in the 1830s to be used as stage props.

They were subsequently acquired by astute dealers and many survive today in public and private collections.


With its wonderful details and condition, this helmet is a must have for any armour fan

David Williams, Director of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour Department, said "it is increasingly rare to find antique armour of this quality. Besides the sculptural beauty and romance of the pieces, they are also of museum quality as Dr Parsons had the most discriminating eye and taste for this art form."

Other standout items include three 16th and 17th Century helmets from England, Germany and Italy, which are fascinating pieces. A Rare English Civil War Period Siege Helmet, mid-17th Century, is estimated at £2,000-3,000 ($3,205-4,807). And a North Italian 'Spanish' Morion Or Cabasset from the late 1500s is estimated to sell for £1,500-1,800 ($2,403-2,884).

A blackened Cuirassier three-quarter armour from 1630, probably Danish, is estimated at £10,000-15,000 ($16,026-24,038). The brilliant lot, harking back to the days of chivalry and valour, would look amazing in any collection of armour or military pieces, making it a fantastic investment for any enthusiast.

Dr. Peter Henry Irving Parsons was born in Monmouthshire and began his medical studies at University College Hospital, London in 1944. On qualifying, he carried out his National Service at various locations across the United Kingdom, attaining the rank of Captain.

During this time he was immensely proud to have been part of the team caring for the officers and men of the Gloucester Regiment on their release from a Chinese prisoner of war camp.


Evoking memories of knights and chivalry, this Cuirassier is worth $24,000

In 1960 Peter took up a post as Associate Specialist in the National Blood Transfusion Service and on retiring in 1986, he was offered the position of consultant. This he declined so he could attend auctions and exhibitions devoted to antique arms and armour, and enjoy the company of fellow enthusiasts as far afield as Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Peter's interest in collecting European arms and armour started when he was a medical student and it was during this time, just after the war, that he came to know the irascible London dealer Percy German, from whom he acquired many of the pieces in this sale.

However, prices asked for European weapons and armour were beyond the means of a medical student and as a result Peter started to collect the unappreciated and relatively inexpensive Japanese armour and weapons which could be readily acquired at that time.

This was very opportune as some years later Peter accepted a generous offer for the majority of his Japanese collection, enabling him to concentrate on his true passion for European arms and armour.


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