Iron, gold, silver, and textile; H. 8 1/4 in. (21 cm)
Purchase, Bashford Dean Memorial Collection, Funds from various donors, by exchange, 1997 (1997.18)
This is a rare early example of what later became a well-known type usually associated either with the later part of the Ming dynasty (13681644) or the ceremonial helmets of the Qing dynasty (16441911). Engraved on the center of the brow is the figure of Buddha Shakyamuni seated on a lotus throne and flanked by the four lokapala, the heavenly guardians of the four directions. Lively dragons, one on each side of a flaming pearl, are engraved on the finial and brim and became a standard motif on virtually all later Chinese ceremonial helmets. The gilding of the helmet's fittings consists of two layers: silver foil burnished onto a crosshatched ground, over which a layer of gold was applied by mercury gilding. This unusual two-stage technique is also found on a few other pieces, including some Chinese or eastern Tibetan saddles, and is a rare alternative to damascening.