In the sixteenth century, Ottoman metalworkers developed a novel class of wares fashioned from gilded copper, tombak in Turkish. In addition to religious and domestic articles, tombak was also used for parade armor, especially helmets, shields, and shaffrons, as it was easy to fashion, lightweight, and, above all, colorful. Embossed in low relief in vertical lobes and with a split-leaf arabesque, this helmet is an unusually elaborate example of tombak armor.
In the sixteenth century Ottoman metalworkers developed a novel class of wares fashioned from gilt copper, tombak in Turkish. Intended for use both in the mosque and the home, these wares included mosque lamps and incense burners, candlesticks, bowls, ewers, tankards, and rosewater bottles as well as door hinges and other decorative appliques, all fashioned from cast or hammered copper often embellished with engraved, punched, or pierced decoration and richly gilt overall. Gleaming tombak vessels were widely used well into the nineteenth century. In addition to being crafted into religious and domestic objects, tombak had an important military application. Ottoman armorers appreciated the visual appeal of the material, which was also much easier to work than iron, and so fashioned from it large numbers of helmets, shields, shaffrons, and standard finials (‘alam). Although it provided no effective defense in battle, lightweight tombak armor was ideal for parades and other ceremonial use and effectively enhanced the pomp and colorful impression of the Ottoman army. The Museum’s helmet is an unusually elaborate tombak example. Its pointed bowl is divided into twelve tapering vertical panels, each slightly raised, with alternating panels engraved with a large split-leaf arabesque against a stippled ground; the panels are outlined with rivet holes, suggesting appliqués now lost. Also no longer extant are the horizontal brim, large cheek pieces, nape defense, and textile lining with which the helmet would originally have been fitted. The stylized foliate ornament points to an early seventeenth-century date. The helmet is incised with the tamga mark applied to pieces stored in the Ottoman arsenals. David Alexander and Stuart W. Pyhrr in [Ekhtiar, Soucek, Canby, and Haidar 2011]
Theron J. Damon, Istanbul(until 1925; sold to Dean); Bashford Dean, Riverdale, NY (1925–28; sale, American ArtAssociation, New York, November 23–24, 1928, no. 302, to Duveen for Mackay); Clarence Mackay, Roslyn, NY (1928–d. 1938; his estate, from1938); Leopold and Ruth Blumka, New York (until 1974; gifted to MMA)
Petsopoulos, Yanni, ed. "Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire." In Tulips, Arabesques & Turbans. New York: Abbeville Press, 1982. p. 41, ill. pl. 16a (b/w).
Ekhtiar, Maryam, Sheila R. Canby, Navina Haidar, and Priscilla P. Soucek, ed. Masterpieces from the Department of Islamic Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1st ed. ed. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011. no. 223, pp. 314-315, ill. p. 315 (color).
Alexander, David G., and Stuart W. Pyhrr. "in the Metropolitan Museum of Art." In Islamic Arms and Armor. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015. p. 10, ill. fig.11 (color).