Cuirass (Char-aina)

Date: late 18th–early 19th century

Culture: Indian or Iranian

Medium: Steel, gold, textile

Dimensions: of breastplate H. 13 in. (33 cm); of backplate H. 15 1/2 in. (39.37 cm); of sides H. 9 5/8 in. (24.5 cm); of whole cuirass W. 11 1/4 in. (28.5 cm); of whole cuirass D. 9 1/2 in. (24 cm); of whole cuirass Wt. 7 lb. (3163 g)

Classification: Armor Parts-Cuirasses

Credit Line: Gift of Harry G. Friedman, 1948

Accession Number: 48.92.1


Steel was commonly used for swords, daggers, helmets, shields, and objects such as this elaborately inlaid cuirass. Weapons and armor were frequently inscribed with pious inscriptions and words from the Qur'an to protect the wearer against harm. Similar to Christian symbolism, which appears on medieval European arms and armor, the Arabic inscriptions here have a talismanic function. They describe God as the God of Light; and allude to the rewards he will give his servants, and his punishment of unbelievers and evildoers. The char-aina refers to the four originally undecorated steel plates, which were then hinged together to produce this cuirass. The light imagery is particularly appropriate for gold-embellished armors of the "four-mirror" (char-aina) type.