Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Date: late 15th–early 17th century

Culture: Tibetan or Mongolian

Medium: Iron, leather, gold, silver, brass or copper alloy, textile

Dimensions: H. 22 1/2 in. (57.2 cm); W. 24 7/8 in. (63.2 cm); Wt. 8 lb. 6.7 oz. (3818.7 g)

Classification: Equestrian Equipment-Shaffrons

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2004

Accession Number: 2004.402


Tibetan shaffrons are relatively rare, the majority of surviving examples having been acquired by museums in the early twentieth century. This shaffron is by far the most elaborately decorated of any recorded up to this point. The quality and execution of its lavish gold and silver damascening rank among the best examples of Tibetan decorated ironwork of this kind, suggesting that it was made for a very high ranking general, if not a king. A carbon-14 test of one of its leather laces resulted in a date range of 1450-1650, coinciding almost exactly with the period of the last two secular Tibetan monarchies: the Rinpung (1435-1565) and the Kings of Tsang (1566-1641).