Escutcheon Plate of a Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Date: ca. 1530–40

Geography: probably Augsburg

Culture: German, probably Augsburg

Medium: Steel, gold

Dimensions: H. 7 in. (17.9 cm); W. 4 1/2 in. (11.5 cm); Wt. 3 oz. (82 g)

Classification: Equestrian Equipment-Shaffrons

Credit Line: Purchase, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald S. Lauder Gift, 1985

Accession Number: 1985.259.2


Escutcheon plates probably developed from early reinforces but were later employed primarily for the display of dynastic arms or personal imprese. Occasionally they also incorporated more fanciful motifs of purely decorative type such as this highly original and rare example of anthropomorphic shape and classical decoration. While the motif of a mooress holding a shield reflects the European fascination with "exotic" races, the scene on the shield represents Hercules battling the river god Acheloüs in the guise of a bull. One of his horns, broken off during the fight, was later given to the Goddess of Plenty, the cornucopia henceforth becoming her symbol (two such cornucopiae are embossed above the figure of Hercules).