Armor for Heavy Cavalry with Matching Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Date: ca. 1600

Culture: French

Medium: Steel, gold, leather, textile

Dimensions: armor: H. 57 in. (144.78 cm); Wt. 77 lb. 2 oz. (34.98 kg); shaffron: H. 22 in. (55.88 cm); Wt. 2 lb. 14 oz. (1.3 kg)

Classification: Armor for Man-3/4 Armor

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1927

Accession Number: 27.177.1, .2


One of the best-preserved French armors dating from the reign of Henry IV (1589–1610), this example demonstrates the French preference for completely gilt armors. It retains its original yellow silk helmet lining and red leather straps sewn with metallic thread. Matching this armor are a shaffron (defense for the horse's head), also in the Metropolitan Museum's collection (acc. no. 27.177.2), and a saddle, now in the Musée de l'Armée, Paris.

In spite of its rich decoration, this armor was intended for use in battle. It was made at a time when the lance had been abandoned by the heavily armored cavalry in favor of a pair of pistols kept in holsters at the front of the saddle. The presence of hand firearms on the battlefield led to the increasing weight of armors such as this and the gradual discarding of elements like the defenses for the lower legs.