• Art of the Islamic and Indian  auction at Christies

    Sale 7843

    Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds

    13 April 2010, London, King Street

  • Lot 64

    A MAMLUK CHAMFRON

    EGYPT, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    A MAMLUK CHAMFRON
    EGYPT, SECOND HALF 15TH CENTURY
    Formed of a single piece of steel shaped at the eyes and with a narrow flange at the ears, the forehead with two convex roundels, a series of fluted bands edging the ears and eyes and running together down the length of the nose forming an elongated lozenge, the flutes decorated with a series of chevrons or zig-zagging ovoids, the lozenge finely engraved with elegant arabesques terminating in palmettes and issuing lotuses, edging the fluting around the nose, similarly decorated panels of arabesque on either side of the fluting, the roundels on the forehead each with a blazon, together flanking the word al-'izz (glory), a series of pins around the edges, slight losses
    24 1/8in. (56.2cm.) long


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    The chamfron is possibly the most sculptural of all pieces of armour. While the basic need to protect the horse's head remains the same, the way of dividing the space allows for huge variety. Widely varying forms were used from the 15th century through to the 17th, where, particularly in Ottoman tombak versions, a great virtue was made of the play on different shapes (Fulya Bodur, Türk Maden Sanati, the Art of Turkish Metalworking, Istanbul, 1987 nos.A179, A180, A184, A185 and A186 for example). The earliest steel chamfrons tend to be relatively plain and strong in form. One, now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, that is decorated in gold with the name and blazon of Muqbil al-Rumi, the dawadar of Sultan Mu'ayyad Sheikh (1412-21 AD) exemplifies this (David Alexander (gen. ed.), Furusiyya, vol.I, Riyadh, 1996, no.III.III, p.153). Exactly one hundred years later a chamfron engraved with the name of the Ottoman Sultan Selim which is dateable to 1517-20 is of virtually identical form (Bashir Mohamed, The Arts of the Muslim Knight, Milan, 2007, no.325, p.339). The decoration however is completely different, with the earlier gold overlay replaced by deep engraving forming panels of dense floral designs around inscription and arabesque cartouches. Variations on this latter engraving formed the typical decoration on steel chamfrons through from the mid-fifteenth century to the end of the sixteenth.

    During the fifteenth century various different variations on the basic form were produced in the Ottoman, Turkman and Mamluk empires. There is frequently more variety to be found within the forms made for each of these armies than there is between them. Distinguishing therefore between the products of each empire can be difficult, unless there is either the name of a historical person, or, as here, a Mamluk blazon. And while the form of modelling, with the parallel fluting rising up the nose to form an upper lozenge panel, can be paralleled in chamfrons attributed to West Iran (Lionello G. Boccia and José A Godoy, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Armeria II, pl.1381 and 1382, p.765), the closest of all in form is a Mamluk example in the name of the amir Qansuh al-Yahyawi in the Armoury Museum, Istanbul (David Alexander, Furusiyya II, Catalogue, Riyadh, 1996, no.87.i, pp.104-5). Even in this instance, although the overall form and fluting are very comparable, there is a major difference, with the Istanbul example having a central ridge where ours has the two pronounced domes, each bearing the blazon. The form is however sufficiently close that we can be confident in a date of the second half of the fifteenth century for our example.

    Special Notice

    No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.


    Provenance

    Purchased from E. Dokter, Rijksweg 75 in Warnsveld, for the amount of 3825 guilders. From Mrs Elias-Vaes's notebooks we can be sure that she purchased this chamfron before December 1975.


    Saleroom Notice

    Purchased from E. Dokter, Rijksweg 75 in Warnsveld, for the amount of 3825 guilders. From Mrs Elias-Vaes's notebooks we can be sure that she purchased this chamfron before December 1975.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of the private collection of the late Mrs Elias-Vaes, sold in support of the Foundation Vaes-Elias funding Cultural Studies


    Post Lot Text

    The remainder of the Mrs Elias-Vaes Collection is to be sold in Christie's Amsterdam, 27-29 April 2010.