Skip to main content

Object Title

Helmet and cuirass (peti)

Helmet and cuirass (peti)

Date

late 18th century

Object Number

XXVIA.139

Provenance

Formerly in the collection of Prince Frederick Augustus, Duke of York (died 1827), acquired by the Armouries at the Tower of London before 1841.

Physical Description

The cuirass is formed of a quilted fabric belt or band, covered in red velvet and embroidered with a repeating pattern of flowers in gold thread. It is lined with blue and white cotton, and fastened through five pairs of brass loops at the front, by the original gold covered cord; two of the loops at the left are missing.

The helmet has a low skull divided into six segments, a peak, side defences of double U-shape, and a deep, trapezoid neck defence. It is covered in red velvet embroidered with panels of gold flowers, and bound around the base of the skull with a five-banded turban of dark green silk. The helmet cord is formed of two broad lengths of black silk. The inside of the neck defence is lined in blue silk brocade, worked with a diaper of flowers in gold. Conservation work has revealed an embedded loop of red velvet centrally positioned at the front of the helmet beneath the securing band, which gives clear evidence that a nasal guard was once in place, although this is now lost. See XXVIA.57 as an example of a helmet with a nasal defence in the style typically associated with South India.

Featured in

Dimensions

HelmetDepth290 mm
HelmetHeight495 mm
HelmetWeight1.303 kg
HelmetWidth370 mm
CuirassHeight230 mm
CuirassLength935 mm
CuirassWeight1.403 kg

Inscriptions and Marks

None.

Bibliographic References

The Tower: Its History, Armories and Antiquities

J. Hewitt, Official catalogue of the Tower Armouries, London, 1859, no. xv.406-7, p. 111.

W. Egerton, An illustrated handbook of Indian arms, London, 1880, no. 587T, p. 124.

Viscount Dillon, Illustrated guide to the Armouries, London, 1910, no. xv.477-8, p. 14.

H.R. Robinson, Oriental armour, London, 1968.

C.A. Bayly, The Raj, India and the British 1600-1947, London, National Portrait Gallery, 1990, no. 162, p. 157.

S. Z. Haider, Islamic arms and armour of Muslim India, Lahore, 1991, pl. 36.

Thom Richardson, An introduction to Indian arms and armour, Leeds, Royal Armouries, 2007: 36

Notes

Tipu was a tenacious opponent and British forces struggled to defeat him. After he was killed during the storming of his stronghold at Seringapatam on 4 May 1799, his palace and city were plundered, including the arsenals, and the war booty distributed or auctioned off. A kind of ‘Tipu mania’ took hold in Britain, and any objects believed to have had association with the man himself became extremely fashionable, however tenuous the connection. Lord Mornington, the Governor General, instructed that many of the most prestigious items thought to be directly linked to Tipu should be presented to the King and other members of the Royal Family. The Duke of York, Prince Frederick Augustus (second son of George III, who became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army), acquired this armour. After the Duke of York's collection was auctioned following his death in 1827, several pieces ultimately came to the Tower Armouries, including this helmet and cuirass. The 1841 guide to the Tower went on to record a helmet and belt on show in the Eastern Vestibule which came from the collection of the late Duke of York, and had belonged to ‘Tippoo Saib’.

Although it cannot be ascertained for sure that this helmet and cuirass belonged to Tipu himself, the armour is of superior quality and would likely have been worn by a high-ranking courtier or official, at the very least. The presence of the helmet and cuirass in the collection of the Duke of York suggests they were among the items specially selected for distribution to members of the British royal family.

These fabric armours were based on ancient forms, worn by warriors across the southern regions of the subcontinent for centuries. Wadded textile combined light flexibility with robust efficacy as a defence, and it seems to have remained popular despite the influence of the metal mail and plate armours that were widely used in northern and central India.

Previous notes on this armour recorded that another similar helmet was sold at Sotheby's, New York, 13 January 1995, lot 1341. It was first noticed by Z Zygulski at a dealer's in New York in 1994.

Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Cuirass and helmet (peti) from the arsenal of Tipu Sultan. XXVIA.139
Thumbnail image of Helmet and cuirass (peti) Body armour (peti) comprising a helmet and cuirass, associated with the royal arsenal of Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam. South Asia (Mysore), late 18th century.
Thumbnail image of Helmet and cuirass (peti) Body armour (peti) comprising a helmet and cuirass, associated with the royal arsenal of Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam. South Asia (Mysore), late 18th century.
Thumbnail image of Helmet and cuirass (peti) Body armour (peti) comprising a helmet and cuirass, associated with the royal arsenal of Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam. South Asia (Mysore), late 18th century.