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Set of Saddle Plates
Tibetan or Chinese, ca. 1400
Iron, gold, lapis lazuli, turquoise
H. as mounted 9 7/8 in. (25 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase,
Gift of William H. Riggs, by exchange,
and Kenneth and Vivian Lam Gift, 1999 (1999.118)
cat. no. 111

Detail: Alternate view

This set of saddle plates represents a high point in the medium of pierced ironwork. Each plate is chiseled from a single piece of iron. The long, thin, four-clawed dragons, chiseled in high relief in great detail, are cut entirely free from the surrounding scrollwork ground so that they can move slightly within it. The scroll patterns are undercut to give the appearance of depth and overlapping, in addition to the areas that actually overlap the bodies of the dragons. In the center of both the pommel and the cantle are a Wish-Granting Jewel motif and scattered lotus blossoms made from pieces of blue and green turquoise set in shaped compartments. The outer edges of the plates are bordered by rows of half-round pieces of lapis. The iron surfaces of the plates are damascened overall with gold foil; the precision and fineness of the cross-hatching beneath the gold are exceptional.

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