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The simplicity of armour is seldom related to the antiquity of its design. One of the more "modern" of armours, originating in the sixteenth (or possibly fifteenth) century, the Chahar-Ai-Ne is also one of the most simple.
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As is evident from the name, which means "the Four Mirrors", this armour developed from the "Mirrors" reinforcement plates. The "common" style of Chahar-Ai-Ne consists of four plates, two larger ones covering the front and back while two smaller ones cover the sides of the torso.
While simply constructed, this "common" Chahar-Ai-Ne is often quite strongly ornamented. The ornament consists of images which are generally chased, or otherwise incised, but are sometimes etched, into the plates. The images commonly consist of inscriptions from poetry or religious literature or of animal scenes (rarely, there may be the image of a man). On some armours, both inscriptions and animal images appear together. On others, only abstract combinations of geometric forms may appear. Often, a border surrounds the whole.
The front and back plates are generally rectangular or octagonal (though sometimes round). They are symmetrical, generally measuring from the waist to a bit below the neck, enough to allow for comfortable movement (though some rectangular ones are larger and the front plate is cut out at the top to accommodate the neck).
The side plates are also symmetrical. In the "common" type of Chahar-Ai-Ne they are always smaller than the front and back, rectangular, and cut out at the top to accommodate the underarm.
The four plates curve in one direction to somewhat approximate the shape of the body. The plates attach to each other by straps and buckles, which are usually crossed, top to bottom, rather than being strapped to the corresponding fitting in the adjacent plate. A set of straps at the top hangs the plates from the wearer's shoulders.
This armour is not intended to be fitted. Rather, it is appropriate to wear the plates with some gap between them. To fill in the gap, this armour is commonly supplemented with (or supplements) a Hauberk.
Worn with girdle of splints and padded cloth Pauldrons.
In addition to the Hauberk, the Chahar-Ai-Ne are sometimes supplemented by a particular type of pauldrons. These are made of thickly padded cloth or leather in a sort of "wing" shape. They cover the shoulders and, in cases of particularly small Chahar-Ai-Ne of the "common" type, the upper chest area. When used, these seem to substitute for the usual shoulder straps.
A version of "Four Mirrors" was used in Nepal and the surrounding areas which is, essentially, of the original "Mirrors" design. Instead of two discs, however, four are used. As "Mirrors" discs, these are circular plates, approximately seven inches (seventeen and a half centimeters) in diameter. They are worn with straps and buckles, as are the "common" Chahar-Ai-Ne, adjusted so that the front covers the solar plexus and the sides cover the ribs.
Often, the "Nepalese" Chahar-Ai-Ne is supplemented by a wide, armoured belt or girdle. This belt is constructed of overlapping, vertical, metal plates, which are riveted to backing straps. Being approximately five to six inches (twelve to fifteen centimeters) wide, the belt provides quite satisfactory rigid protection for the kidneys.
As are all Chahar-Ai-Ne, this one is often also supplemented with a Hauberk and sometimes with the peculiar pauldrons described above. When present, the decoration of this, "Nepalese", form seems to be sparse, consisting simply of an incised border.
Another variant of this armour is the "hinged" Chahar-Ai-Ne. Some Western historians of Armour call this "Waist Coat Armour". Used in the same regions as the "common" type, this seems to have been armour worn by royalty.
Often, the "hinged" Chahar-Ai-Ne consists of similar rectangular plates as the "common" Chahar-Ai-Ne (though of the most "robust" type - those with the front plate cut out at the top). The major difference is that the four plates are attached to each other with hinges.
Because the plates are hinged, this armour is, of necessity, fitted to the body. One, or both of the front hinges are removable, to allow the armour to be donned. As the "common" type, the "hinged" Chahar-Ai-Ne is suspended from the shoulders by straps and buckles. The decoration generally consists of incised borders and slightly embossed pectorals and shoulder blades. Sometimes, the back plate is cut into a "three-" or "five-lobed" shape.
Sometimes, however, this "Four Mirrors" armour is actually constructed of five sections. That is, the front section is split into two plates, so that the armour now opens in the front, eliminating the necessity for removable hinges. To fasten this front opening armour, thongs, straps and buckles, or another removable hinge are used.
Armour of this last type is often decorated with embossed pectorals and sometimes with other embossed designs (sometimes at the same time). On an armour in Poland (originally given by the Shah of Persia to the Polish king) these embossed designs are in the shape of suns (one smiling sun centered on each of the five plates). Additionally, the tops of the front and back plates are often either round or cut into a "three-lobed", or "five-lobed" shape (front and back being generally of the same shape).
Five Plate Hinged Chahar-Ai-Ne
This armour remained popular in Persia and India into the nineteenth century. As mentioned above, it is also to be found in the collections of Eastern European potentates, generally as a gift from an Asian ruler.
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Articles and Illustrations by Norman J. Finkelshteyn.
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