Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense), Steel, brass, leather, Italian, probably Brescia

Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

ca. 1560–70
probably Brescia
Italian, probably Brescia
Steel, brass, leather
H. 24 7/8 in. (63.2 cm); W. 12 1/4 in. (31.1 cm); D. 9 in. (22.9 cm); Wt. 4 lb. 11 oz. (2132 g)
Equestrian Equipment-Shaffrons
Credit Line:
Gift of William H. Riggs, 1913
Accession Number:
Not on view
This shaffron is of an unusual construction that appears to be consciously imitative of Turkish armor of the period, which was made of multiple small plates of iron attached by mail to form a very flexible defense. The etched decoration, however, is typically Italian in its use of trophies and grotesques inspired by classical prototypes. The style of etching and the overall covering of the armor's surface with ornament are characteristic of armors made in Brescia, the principal arms manufacturing center in the Veneto. Armors constructed in emulation of Turkish examples reflect a taste for the exotic that had existed in Venice for centuries as a result of the republic's regular encounter, through trade and warfare, with the Middle East.
William H. Riggs, Paris (until 1913; his gift to MMA).
Houston. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Lively Arts of the Renaissance," January 15–February 21, 1960, no. 73a.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Armored Horse in Europe," February 15, 2005–January 15, 2006, no. 20.

Rochester, N.Y. Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester. "Renaissance Remix: Art & Imagination in 16th-century Europe," June 1, 2012–October 31, 2018 no catalog.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Lively Arts of the Renaissance. Houston, Tex.: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1960. no. 73a.

Pyhrr, Stuart W., Donald J. La Rocca, and Dirk H. Breiding. The Armored Horse in Europe, 1480–1620. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2005. pp. 51–53, no. 20, ill.