Defense for the Lower Right Leg (Greave)

Turkish, possibly Bursa

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 455

This leg defense belongs to a small group of armor whose decoration is characterized by large floral forms with broad leaves and petals that are pierced with holes and have a distinctly strong, solid appearance. These armors must have been produced in the same workshop, and it is likely that the Museum’s leg defense and a very similarly decorated helmet now in the Askeri Müzesi, Istanbul, may once have been part of the same armor. Leaves of the type seen here are found in Timurid painting, ceramics, and stone carving. However, there are also Ottoman parallels, chiefly from Bursa, where a group of Iranian and Iranian-trained Ottoman artisans worked for Murad II (r. 1421–51). Arthur Lane noted that the luxurious cuerda seca (dry cord) tilework they produced “marks the introduction of the Timurid-Persian style into Turkey.” A comparison of the leaf forms found on the Metropolitan’s armor with those distinctive of Bursa work suggests that the Museum’s leg guard and other related pieces may have been made there during the mid-fifteenth century.

This greave typifies the difficulty in attributing many fifteenth-century armors to a specific center. Although worked in a variety of styles, these armors share a family resemblance; for this reason, many of them are described here as exemplifying a widespread Turkman aesthetic with a huge production in numerous diverse locations. One of the characteristics of this family group is that the inscriptions are often incorrectly written, leading to the assumption that in many cases they may have been executed by a non-Arabic speaker, perhaps either by an illiterate craftsman or by a Kurd, an Iranian, or a Turkman. The tamğa engraved on the inside of this greave is the same (but reversed) as that found on two helmets in the Museum’s collection (see acc. nos. 04.3.209, .210).

Defense for the Lower Right Leg (Greave), Steel, iron, silver, gold, leather, Turkish, possibly Bursa

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