India and Iran
Iron, steel, gold, leather
H. 31 in. (78.8 cm), Wt. 23 lb. 10 oz. (10.7 kg)
Purchase, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Gift, 2008 (2008.245)
Six iron plates manufactured in India in the early seventeenth century cover the front and sides of this exquisite armor. The plates are decorated with two-color gold incised through to the dark oxidized iron ground with Qur'anic inscriptions in elegant calligraphy entwined with delicate foliate scrolls. An engraved inscription on the inside of the right breastplate identifies the armor as a gift of Sayf Khan, a high-ranking Mughal prince and military official at the court of Shah Jahan, who ruled from 1627 to 1658. Two additional inscriptions inside the plates record valuations assigned to the armor in the later years of Shah Jahan's rule, confirming that the armor was indeed the emperor's. The plates were at some unknown time fitted into a mail shirt that may date as early as the fifteenth century and is possibly of Iranian origin, produced in the territory ruled by the Ak Koyunlu, or White Sheep Turkomans. Its thick, double-riveted rings are stamped with many of the ninety-nine names of God. The plethora of inscriptions had a talismanic value, as did the fish-shaped buckles at the center.
Arguably one of the most beautiful surviving Mughal armors, this is also among the earliest dated examples and the only one that can be directly associated with Shah Jahan.