Mughal Mail and Plate Top helmet
Region: Central India
Period: 18th century, Mughal dominions.
Materials: Steel, Iron, Brass
Antique Indian armour is considered scarce on todays art market, especially when it comes to helmets. This helmet dates from the 18th century and can be attributed to the Mughals due to the mail and plate construction. Mail and plate constructions were commonly found in the Mughal dominions from roughly the 16th to 18th century and vary in shape and style. Most helmets are meant to be worn on top of a turban and are therefore different in shape and size than their European counterparts and are called ‘Top’. The ‘Top’ helmets were generally worn by the well trained Mughal cavalry during the similar named Mughal reign from the 16th to 18th century. In a later stadium of their reign in the 19th century, with the invention of modern fire-arms and British colonization, the traditional armour disappeared and the more modern and European influenced military issued uniforms began to take over.
A very rare example consisting of a central ridge with two sidepieces attached with open mail rings. The middle part protecting the skull has a medial ridge running down nearly three quarter of the plate. All three pieces show a brass washer which is riveted to the skull plate, the top decorated with a steel finial. One side shows a line of holes on which the chainmail neck protection was attached.
The open rings could be a 19th century replacement since it presumably had a riveted chain mail connection. Some of these helmets are encountered with plume holders of nasal guards. This example shows no sign of a former nasal guard and can therefor be considered complete in this condition, only missing the chainmail aventail.
Two very similar examples can be found in the Royal Collection Trust and the Metropolitan Museum of Arts New York, which can be seen below:
Condition: Very good original condition, no signs of a former nasal guard. Without chainmail aventail.
Provenance: French art market
– George Cameron Stone’s ‘A Glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armor’ p.50
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