The chamfron is possibly the most sculptural of all pieces of armour. While the basic need to protect the horse’s head remained the same, the way of dividing the space allowed for huge variety in decoration. Widely varying forms were used from the 15th century through to the 17th century, where, particularly in Ottoman tombak versions, a great virtue was made of the play on different shapes (F. Bodur, Türk Maden Sanati, The Art of Turkish Metalworking, Istanbul, 1987, nos. A179, A180, A184, A185 and A186, for example).
The fashion for gilt copper, or tombak, developed in Ottoman Turkey in the 16th century. Whilst it was used primarily in the mosque and home for objects such as lamps, incense burners, candlesticks and bowls, it also had an important function in a military context. A number of tombak helmets, chamfrons and shields are known. Because of the malleability of the copper, tombak armour would provide no effective defence in battle. It is likely therefore that the rich, lustrous pieces were created for parades and other ceremonial use, enhancing the pomp and colour of the Ottoman army.
James Allan acknowledges the possibility, however, that important Ottoman figures, such as sultans or viziers, might have used richly-decorated objects in battle as a symbol of their status (Y. Petsopoulos (ed.), Tulips, Arabesques & Turbans. Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire, London, 1982, p. 42). The fact that there are a number of tombak pieces in the Karlsruher Turkenbeute from the collections of Baden-Baden suggests that in spite of its softness, the material must have been used at the siege of Vienna in 1683. It is clear that they were not the standard for the Ottoman army however. When used in battle, tombak armour was no doubt used only by the most important figures on the field.
Chamfrons of similar shape are in the Military Museum in Istanbul (for instance inv. no. 208-5, 208-93 and 208-126; T. Guckiran, Askeri Müze, At Zirhlari Koleksiyonu, Istanbul, 2009). A similar chamfron sold Christie's, London, 23 April 2015, lot 169.