Horse neck defence (crinet)
Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 15th–17th Century
Overall: 460mm (18 inches)
For the left side of a horse, this neck defence or crinet was intended to be secured to the animal as part of a pair. For comparison, a mounted pair can be seen in the Royal Armouries, Leeds (XXVIH.21 and XXVIH.22)1.
This particular crinet is constructed from four overlapping layers of leather held together with leather thongs threaded through small, hollow iron bosses near the edges of each band. The outer layer and the third layer are painted with clouds in gold leaf on a dark ground. The second layer is similarly painted with golden clouds, but this time on a red ground believed to be pigmented shellac. The central panel is covered with small square iron plates, each of which has a shallow, rounded boss in the middle. The points where the four corners of these adjacent square plates meet are each covered by a further, smaller, hollow iron boss. These bosses have a transverse interior bar, over which leather lacing is threaded to sew them to the leather ground. In this example the ‘scales’ match closely to those of a shaffron in the Metropolitan Museum (2004.402)2, and likely would have completed a set of horse armour that included such a shaffron.
The edges of the leather pieces are protected with green leather piping which is sewn with a fine copper alloy wire in a precise chain stitch. Don LaRocca comments that such a wire stitch is likely to have been reserved for the better pieces of Tibetan horse armour3.
The rear is stamped with a wax seal which appears to be a series of numbers. The application of wax seals is a fairly common feature on Tibetan armour, and several examples can be found in LaRocca’s 2006 book Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet. Of note are items 1 and 32 which were collected by FM Bailey (1882–1967), an officer during the Younghusband expedition of 1903–4, LaRocca concluding that the Bailey items were likely collected during his employment as a trade agent in Gyantse, rather than during the expedition.
3 LaRocca, Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, 2006, p.105.