Shaffron of Henry II of France when Dauphin, ca. 1495, Italian.

Shaffron is that piece of armor that goes on horse’s face. Apparently, young Dauphin here wanted to ride a dragon instead.

In the Renaissance, elaborate parade armor of fanciful design was often employed in tournaments, ceremonial entries, and court pageants. This shaffron, shaped as a fierce dragon’s head, is among the earliest surviving examples of parade armor in the “heroic” style, which alluded to the heroes of literature and legend. The shaffron was redecorated in 1539 with gold-damascened motifs including a fleur-de-lis, the letter H, and dolphins, indicating that it was refurbished for use by the French dauphin Henry (1519–1559), who assumed the throne as Henry II in 1547. The shaffron can probably be associated with the ceremonies connected with the tour of France made by Emperor Charles V in 1539, during which the dauphin was in constant attendance. The reuse of an older piece of armor, redecorated for this occasion, suggests that there was considerable haste in assembling the necessary equipment for the ceremonies.

Metropolitan Museum of Art