A PAIR OF HORSE NECK DEFENCES (CRINETS)
Place of Origin: TIBET
Date: 15th - 17th Century
Overall - each: 520mm x 480mm (20 ½ x 18 ½ inches)
For the sides of a horse’s neck, this piece is unique for the fact that it comprises a matching pair of neck defences or crinets (many extant examples being only for one side of the face). For comparison, a mounted pair can be seen in the Royal Armouries, Leeds (XXVIH.21 and XXVIH.22).
In this example, each neck defence is constructed from three overlapping layers of leather held together by leather thongs threaded through small, hollow iron bosses near the edges of each band (most on the outer layers now missing). The outer layers are painted with clouds in gold leaf on a dark ground, whilst the second layers depict curving gilt vines and blossoming lotuses on reddish shellac. The striking centre-piece of the right-sided neck-defence (the other with minor losses) is dominated by a scrolling dragon amidst curling clouds and interlocking squares and circles which represent two of the seven primary possessions belonging to the chakravartin (the universal monarch in Hindu and Jain religious traditions) as symbolised by jewellery: the circular earrings of ‘the precious queen’ and the square earrings of ‘the precious minister’.
The edges of the leather pieces are protected with green leather piping which is sewn together with thread woven in a precise chain stitch.
The leather back of each neck-defence is stamped with a wax seal which appears to contain a series of numbers (possibly ‘2061’) enclosed within a circle of Tibetan script. 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.
 Robert Beer, Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols, Serindia Publications, 2003, pp. 46-47.