Object Title

Cuirass (chahar a'ineh)

Cuirass (chahar a'ineh)



Object Number



Purchased 1 February 1986. Sold at auction Sotheby's New York, 20-1 September 1985.

Physical Description

Composed of four plates, for the front, rear and either side of the chest, once of mirror bright steel.

The front and rear plates are circular, slightly convex and fitted with broad fretted gilt steel borders. Each of these is composed of a central band chiselled with four dragons separated by two ducks and two 'qilins', amidst fine scrolling foliage. The main bands are bordered by fine steel strips turned over the edges. the side panels are circular, with a curved cutaway at the top of each. Their edges are slightly embossed, and bordered by single incised lines. The side edges have two rivet holes at the top and a pair below, for straps.

Each plate is lined with a circular pad of cotton wadding, with a layer of linen inside and fragments of cream silk lining outside, turned over and tacke with heavy thread. The side pieces have apparently modern borders of blue cotton. The linings are glued to the plates.

The plates are joined by leather straps. There are two long transverse straps, each attached by a single rivet at either side of each plate. There were two shoulder straps fastened to the upper, more widely spaced, rivet holes on the front and rear plates. The leather straps are replacements, made of buff leather with a layer of ordinary leather outside. They have been much mended and joined.


Dimensions: Main plate diameter 200 mm (7.9 in), side plate width 190 mm (7.5 in) Weight: Weight 1490 g (3 lb 4 oz)

Inscriptions and Marks

A white label stamped 5365; yellow Sotheby New York label inscribed 29/6; white label inscribed in ink 3816.

Bibliographic References

D La Rocca, Warriors of the Himalayas, rediscovering the arms and armour of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006: 129, no. 42


This seems to be part of the same armour as XXVIA.160. Armours of this type, worn over a mail shirt, were still in use as late as 1944 by the 'rta-dmag' (feudal cavalry) in the New Year's Day festivities at Lhasa. A complete equipment of this type is illustrated in 'Zongguo Bingqi Shigao', Beijing, 1957, pl. 92 no. 1. Comparable examples include one in the Metropolitan Museum (G.C. stone, 'A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armour', repr. New York, 1961, p. 52, fig. 68) which has a plain key-fret border.