Anatolia or Western Iran
late 15th century
iron and steel, with beaten and engraved decoration; brass attachment
20 x 16.5cm
The mask was originally attached to a helmet by a hinge at the brow and clamps at the temples. It bears holes for the attachment of a neck-veil and ear-protectors at the sides. The features are slightly Mongoloid, but with indications of abundant facial hair – heavy eyebrows and luxuriant moustaches, which are beaten, and a beard, which is engraved. The engraved ornament is of foliate scrollwork characteristic of both Aqqoyunlu Iran and contemporary Ottoman Turkey in the later 15th century.
The forehead bears an indecipherable inscription which may possibly have continued on the helmet. The style of the inscription suggests that the war mask was manufactured in the northern Caucasus, in present-day Daghestan or near the port of Derbend on the Caspian Sea, which made much of the armour used by the Ottomans, the Mamluks and the Aqqoyunlu.
D. Alexander, The Arts of War. Arms and Armour of the 7th to 19th Centuries, The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, volume XXI, London 1992, cat.25, pp.66–7. J.M. Rogers, The Arts of Islam. Masterpieces from the Khalili Collection, London 2010, cat.221, pp.186–7.