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Helmet

  • Place of origin:

    Lahore (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watered steel, chiselled and overlaid with gold; brass and steel mail neckguard; heron feather plumes

  • Museum number:

    118A-1852

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 122, case 5

Object Type
Helmets of this kind would have been worn with armour consisting of a mail undercoat, a cuirass of four steel panels, and two arm guards with mail gauntlets. Lahore, the capital of the Mughal province of Punjab, was a renowned centre for the manufacture of armour and weapons. It would later be divided at Partition in 1947 between the newly formed nations of Pakistan and India.

Materials & Making
This helmet is made from the watered steel for which the Indian subcontinent has been famous for centuries. The distinctive, though discreet, pattern of dark whorls on a paler ground is produced by the variations in colour of the different elements of the crystalline structure of the steel. This has been partly concealed by the application of brown lac (a natural resin from which sealing wax was also made), possibly suggesting that the bowl of the helmet was an old piece that was splendidly refurbished for the Great Exhibition. The gold overlaid ornament would also have been newly applied for the Exhibition, and a new mail neck guard, solid neck guard and plume holders were added.

Historical Associations
The helmet was bought by the Museum of Ornamental Art from the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a modern piece from Lahore. It cost £13 2s 6d.

Physical description

Steel Helmet overlaid with three plumes

Place of Origin

Lahore (made)

Date

ca. 1850 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Watered steel, chiselled and overlaid with gold; brass and steel mail neckguard; heron feather plumes

Dimensions

Height: 58 cm from edge of mail to top of spike, Height: 93 cm including plumes, Depth: 21 cm, Diameter: 23 cm including nose guard, Weight: 2 kg approx.

Object history note

Purchased from the Great Exhibition of 1851, London, as 'modern'.

Descriptive line

Helmet, watered steel, chiselled and overlaid with gold, brass and steel mail neckguard, heron feather plumes, Lahore, Pakistan, ca. 1850

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

p. 138, cat. no. 458, Susan Stronge
Skelton, Robert, et al, The Indian Heritage. Court life and Arts under Mughal Rule London: The Victoria and Albert Museum, 1982
fig. 1.16, cat. 18. p. 9, and p. 527
Bryant, Julius and Weber, Susan; John Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London Newhaven: Yale University Press, 2017

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Lahore had a long history as a renowned centre for the manufacture of high-quality arms and armour. After the second Anglo-Sikh war in 1849 the Punjab and its capital Lahore became part of the British Empire. Craftsmen continued to produce fine weapons and armour for collectors. This helmet displayed all their technical and artistic skill. [27/03/2003]

Materials

Steel

Subjects depicted

Sikhism; Feathers; War; Battle

Categories

Arms & Armour; Animals and Wildlife; Metalwork

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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