Shaffron (Horse's Head Defense)

Date: ca. 1560–70

Geography: probably Brescia

Culture: Italian, probably Brescia

Medium: Steel, brass, leather

Dimensions: H. 24 7/8 in. (63.2 cm); W. 12 1/4 in. (31.1 cm); D. 9 in. (22.9 cm); Wt. 4 lb. 11 oz. (2132 g)

Classification: Equestrian Equipment-Shaffrons

Credit Line: Gift of William H. Riggs, 1913

Accession Number: 14.25.1664


This shaffron is of an unusual construction that appears to be consciously imitative of Turkish armor of the period, which was made of multiple small plates of iron attached by mail to form a very flexible defense. The etched decoration, however, is typically Italian in its use of trophies and grotesques inspired by classical prototypes. The style of etching and the overall covering of the armor's surface with ornament are characteristic of armors made in Brescia, the principal arms manufacturing center in the Veneto. Armors constructed in emulation of Turkish examples reflect a taste for the exotic that had existed in Venice for centuries as a result of the republic's regular encounter, through trade and warfare, with the Middle East.