Place of Origin: SOUTHWEST CHINA
Date: Late 19th / Early 20th Century
Overall height: 530mm (21 inches)
A large red-painted cuirass of the Yi or Nuosuo people (historically known as Lolo), an ethnic minority group in China which is based across the Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces.
The armour is made from the hide of Southern Yellow cattle (the breed indigenous to Southern China and Vietnam used to make Yi armour), the chest-panel here decorated with a dark red-painted surface which is further adorned with borders of yellow paint lined with rows of arrows and circles – the interior panel filled with large curling lines, and the back-plate decorated en suite.
According to Princes des Cimes, Henry Bussière, 2003, the catalogue in which this armour was published, Nuossu society was divided into clans; southern clans had armours decorated with black and yellow motifs on a red background.
Leather straps secure the panels together, and an array of looped cords is fitted to the back of the cuirass so that it could be carried on one’s back. These straps are most densely arranged at the skirt which comprises six rows of closely interconnected lamellae painted red and yellow, and which each flare out slightly at their lower edge.
Two Yi cuirasses are preserved in the Quai Branly Museum in Paris (Inventory Numbers 71.1946.22.4 and 71.1946.22.10). Another example, on loan from the Natural History Museum, is recorded at the British Museum (Museum Number As1921,1029.1).
Henry Bussière, Princes des Cimes, Editions Adamas, 2003
From the collection of Acher Eskanasy