Henry Moore OM, CH

Helmet Head and Shoulders

1952, cast date unknown

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Bronze on slate base
Object (Incl. base): 190 × 205 × 150 mm, 4 kg
Presented by the artist 1978

Display caption

British sculptor Henry Moore once described the helmet motif as ‘a recording of things inside other things’. It was related to a major theme in his work: the mother and child. While some of Moore’s sculptures present this relationship as benign and nurturing, other works suggest something more mysterious and ambiguous. Although the protective wings gently envelop the interior void, the toothed visor and claw shape impart a sense of menace, even aggression. The scuffed patina implies some ancient, battle-scarred creature.

Henry Moore was born in Castleford, West Yorkshire in 1898 and died near Much Hadham, Hertfordshire in 1986.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry


Helmet Head and Shoulders is a hollow sculpture consisting of a single, thin piece of curvaceous bronze that delineates the shape of a human head and shoulders. The combination of a smoothed, highly polished exterior surface and a hollow interior is more suggestive of a suit of armour than a human figure, while the toothed helmet conveys a sense of menace and aggression.
The highest point of the sculpture has been modelled into a hollow dome, the surface of which features two small circular holes near the front, in between which a thin straight ridge runs down from the apex of the dome to the lip of the base (fig.1). At the front of the sculpture, directly below this lip, are two differently sized but equally prominent triangular protrusions that point down sharply towards the base. A circular hole marks the central point at which the inner edges of these two triangles meet, behind which the base of the dome curves down and into an almost tubular vertical shaft, reminiscent of a neck. The front half of this shaft is open-ended, revealing it and the dome above to be hollow.

The tubular form curves outwards from the neck to form what appear to be gently rounded, albeit asymmetrical shoulders. When seen from the rear, the back of the sculpture forms an arch so that the left flank rests on the base at a single point (fig.2). From this angle a set of three arced striations can also be seen radiating from the rounded lower edge of the dome to around the point where the neck begins to curve outwards. Similar contour lines feature around the rounded left shoulder, although here the striations are deeper and thus more prominent. The edge of the left shoulder extends downwards to the base before curling upwards and across the front, perhaps echoing the position and shape of a breastplate (fig.3). Here it is cut off by a straight vertical edge, continued downwards from the open neck. In contrast, the other edge of the open neck leads down the top edge of the right shoulder, curling smoothly down and around towards the base, culminating in a point near the centre. As a result the cavity on this side of the sculpture is left exposed with no comparable breastplate closing it off.

Making the sculpture

Sources and development

Exhibition and interpretation

The Henry Moore Gift

Alice Correia
October 2013


For the sketches made between 1950 and 1951 see Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 4: Complete Drawings 1950–76, London 2003.
Henry Moore in conversation with David Mitchinson, 1980, extract of transcript reproduced in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.213.
John Russell, Henry Moore, London 1975, p.142.
For an explanatory video about the lost wax process see http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/sculpture-techniques/, accessed 17 October 2013.
Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, Tate Archive TGA 200816, pp.3–4. (An edited version of this interview was published in the Listener, 29 August 1963, pp.305–7).
Ibid., p.4.
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 2: Sculpture and Drawings 1949–1955, 1955, 2nd edn, London 1965, p.16 (?another cast reproduced pl.33).
Richard Calvocoressi, ‘T.2273 Helmet Head and Shoulders’, The Tate Gallery 1978–80: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1981, p.120.
Andrew Causey, The Drawings of Henry Moore, London 2010, p.98.
Henry Moore, cited in Michael Chase, ‘Moore on his Methods’, Christian Science Monitor, 24 March 1967, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.214.
Julian Stallabrass, ‘Darkness in the Shelter’, in Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao 1990. See http://www.courtauld.ac.uk/people/stallabrass_julian/PDF/Bilbao.pdf, accessed 22 October 2013.
Moore cited in Chase 1967, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.214.
Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London 1959, p.100.
Ibid., pp.102–3.
Ibid., pp.101–2.
Ibid., p.102.
Alan Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1977, p.144.
Roger Cardinal, ‘Henry Moore: In the Light of Greece’, in Henry Moore: In the Light of Greece, exhibition catalogue, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation Museum of Contemporary Art, Andros 2000, p.30.
David Mitchinson (ed.), Moore and Mythology, exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green 2007, p.10.
T.W. Earp, ‘Henry Moore’s Coat of Many Colours’, Daily Telegraph, 12 February 1954, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Anon., ‘Mr. Moore’s New Bronzes’, Times, 15 February 1954, p.4.
Keith Sutton, ‘Henry Moore at Whitechapel’, Listener, 8 December 1960, p.1070.
Bryan Robertson, ‘Moore and Bacon’, Listener, 25 July 1963, p.128.
See ‘Note on the Henry Moore Gift’, 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.
These figures are based on those listed in a memo in the records for the exhibition. See Tate Public Records TG 92/344/2.
Norman Reid, letter to Mary Danowski, 31 August 1978, Tate Public Records TG 4/6/10/4.

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