Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Set of Saddle Plates

ca. 1400
Tibetan or Chinese
Iron, gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise
H. 10 7/8 in. (27.6 cm); L. 23 1/2 in. (59.7 cm); W. 13 3/4 in. (34.9 cm)
Equestrian Equipment-Saddles
Credit Line:
Purchase, Gift of William H. Riggs, by exchange, and Kenneth and Vivian Lam Gift, 1999
Accession Number:
Not on view
This set of saddle plates represents a high point in the medium of pierced ironwork, equaling or excelling anything of its type. Each plate is chiseled from a single piece of iron. The long, thin four-clawed dragons, carved in high relief in great detail, are cut entirely free from the surrounding scrollwork ground so that they can move slightly within it. The scroll patterns are undercut to give the appearance of depth and overlap, in addition to the areas where the bodies of the dragons actually do overlap. There is a Wish-Granting Jewel motif made with pieces of blue and green turquoise set in shaped compartments in the center of both the pommel and the cantle, and scattered lotus blossoms made in the same way. The outer edges of the plates are bordered by rows of semicircular pieces of lapis. The iron surfaces of the plates are damascened completely with gold foil, and the precision and fineness of the cross-hatching beneath the gold are exceptional.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.

London. British Museum. "Ming: Courts and Contacts 1400–1450," September 18, 2014–January 4, 2015.

"Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1998–1999." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 57, no. 2 (Fall 1999). pp. 76–77, ill. p. 77.

Thurman, Robert A. F., and David Weldon. Sacred Symbols: The Ritual Art of Tibet. New York: Sotheby's, New York, 1999. pp. 154–155, no. 71, ill. p. 155.

Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. La Rocca, and Morihiro Ogawa. Arms and Armor: Notable Acquisitions, 1991–2002. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002. pp. 50–52, no. 48, ill. p. 51 and fig. 16.

Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. La Rocca, and Dirk H. Breiding. The Armored Horse in Europe, 1480–1620. New York; New Haven, 2005. p. 19, fig. 12.

La Rocca, Donald J. Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2006. pp. 8, 15, 27, 74, 148, 172, 214, 216–217, 221, no. 111, ill. pp. 216–217 and back cover.

La Rocca, Donald J. "Tibetan Warriors : The Challenges of Presenting the Warlike Side of a Peaceful Culture." In The Universal Heritage of Arms and Military History: Challenges and Choices in a Changing World, ICOMAM Conference, Vienna 2007. Vienna, 2008. p. 50, fig. 15.

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