Shirt of Mail and Plate

Date: dated A.H. 1042/A.D. 1632–33

Culture: Indian

Medium: Steel, iron, gold, leather

Dimensions: as mounted, H. 32 in. (81.3 cm)l; L. 31 in. (78.8 cm); W. 40 in. (101.5 cm); Wt. 23 lb. 10 oz. (10.7 kg)

Classification: Mail

Credit Line: Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2008

Accession Number: 2008.245


This shirt ranks as one of the most beautiful surviving Mughal armors and is among the earliest dated examples. The armor plates are covered in two-color gold and incised through to the dark iron with Qur'anic inscriptions in elegant calligraphy entwined with delicate foliage. An engraved inscription inside one of the plates identifies this armor as a gift from Sayf Khan, a high-ranking Mughal prince and military official at the court of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1624–58). Additional inscriptions inside the plates record valuations assigned to the armor in the later years of Shah Jahan's rule, suggesting that the armor had belonged to the emperor.

The decorated plates are fitted into a sturdy shirt of thick double-riveted mail of earlier date, possibly the fifteenth century. Each ring is stamped on one side with several of the ninety-nine names of God. The multiple religious invocations on the plates and mail cloaked the wearer in protective prayer. The fish-shaped buckles are also thought to have talismanic value.