Place of Origin: Tibet
Date: 16th - 18th Century
Overall Height: 152mm (6 inches)
Overall Width: 117mm (4 3/5 inches)
Tibetan stirrups of this quality and age seldom appear on the art market. Indeed, they are sufficiently rare that much of what is known about Tibetan stirrups with respect to their form and categorisation originates from a single, obscure treatise published by Tashi Namgyal, a writer of the 16th century.
Here thick plaques of damascened gold cover the stirrups’ shoulders and convey stylised dragons’ heads in profile at either side of the rectangular apertures originally used to secure the stirrup leathers. The posts (rkang in Tibetan) are formed of faceted iron damascened in silver, and curve gently down towards the lozenge-shaped treads (mthil). An elegant four-footed base completes each stirrup, chiselled and engraved over its surface in deep relief to convey a foliate sequence in gold mostly en suite with that at the shoulders. The stylised leaves and tendrils rise and fall with a great sense of vitality – a bright and well-preserved schema which in turn provides a pleasing contrast to the archaic patina covering the iron underside of the treads.
Though it is difficult to pinpoint precisely similar examples, it is useful to compare the present stirrups with a pair (Accession Number 2002.136.1, .2) preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, particularly on account of their deeper lozenge-shaped treads – a rare and unusual feature in such pieces – as well as the similarity of their chiselled decoration in gold.
 On this and Tibetan stirrups, saddles and bridles, see Donald LaRocca, Warriors of the Himalayas: Rediscovering the Arms and Armor of Tibet, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2006, pp. 214-266.
 See Donald LaRocca, ibid, pp. 245-246, Item Number 131.