Les Demoiselles d'AvignonSt Stephen's Cathedral in ViennaNapoleon at the Great St. Bernhard Pass


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Elephant armour

Unknown Maker

The armour in its present state is composed of six elements: a shaffron, a throat defence, three panels for the left of the body and one central panel for the right. All the elements are of mail and plate construction and are lined with modern black fabric. In total, the armour now comprises some 5,840 plates and would have comprised around 8,439 plates when complete. The shaffron (head defence) is composed of some 2,195 plates, arranged in vertical columns, with cusped overlapping edges, and joined by riveted mail. It extends midway down the trunk, and has flaps for the ears. There are two small holes for the eyes, and two larger holes for the processes on top of the skull, all of which are bordered by radiating plates. At the base of the trunk and at either ear is a circular plate similarly bordered by radiating plates. At the centre of the trunk is a heart-shaped iron plate with a brass border, with a central boss containing a threaded hole, probably for a hair tassel. Small fragments of the original lining survive, under the leather straps retaining the iron loops under the ears on the shaffron. Next to the mail and plate is a thick layer of cotton wadding. The lining is of beige cotton, printed with alternating bands of dark brown, eight-leaved rosettes, and of dark brown, red, brown, red and brown stripes. These bands are separated by narrow dark brown stripes. The throat defence comprises some 1,046 plates. It has a straight rear edge, extends up to the shoulders, and its front edge has a medial cusp for the lower jaw. It is made of columns of plates like those on the shaffron, with a broad band of mail at the centre. The side panels are composed of columns of plates interspersed with large, embossed iron plates with brass borders: the front panel has eleven of these, each central panel has twelve, and the rear panel has ten. The front panel contains some 948 plates, each central panel some 780 plates, and the rear panel some 871 plates. The embossed plates of the front panel are decorated as follows; five with charging elephants, one with a lotus, one with a peacock, and the four in the bottom row with pairs of adorsed fish. The plates of the central panels have seven elephants, one lotus, one peacock and three pairs of fish, while the rear panel has six elephants and four pairs of fish (again forming the bottom row. All the elephants faced forwards in the original configuration. Each element is joined to its neighbour by modern leather straps or ties fitted to original iron loops. The body panels are attached by a series of leather straps passing over the elephant's back. The armour was extensively restored at the Tower Armouries in 1949-50, with around 600 plates and approximately 12,000 mail links being replaced. It was further repaired and cleaned before being put on display in its new home in the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds in 1996. Object: XXVIA.102 Location: Oriental gallery Image and text © Royal Armouries, 2020
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