Pair of Lacquered Shields (Dhal)
These two leather shields have been decorated with painted lacquer. Their near-identical ornamentation consists of leafy floral sprays rendered in yellow and orange earth tones, brilliantly juxtaposed against a black background. On each shield one floral spray is centrally placed and surrounded by four raised silver bosses. Encircling this composition are four floral sprays sprouting inwards from a rolling ground that joins with the border. Cloud motifs outlined in gold surround the edges of the inside of each shield against a black background. Two handles are attached to the back of each and one shield bears a square cushion.
The decoration on both sides of these shields is in keeping with Japanese themes. This is the result of earlier practices beginning in the mid-17th century, where leather shields made in Bengal were shipped to Japan to be lacquered and then re-exported.
A similar example to our shields is illustrated in Ricketts, p. 141, fig. 240; and in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Accession Number 36.25.592, but with the addition of animal motifs. For examples of earlier Indian shields that were lacquered in Japan see Impey and Jörg p. 192, figs. 461-464.
Impey, O. & Jörg, C. Japanese Export Lacquer 1580-1850, Hotei Publishing, Amsterdam, 2005.
Ricketts, H. and Missillier, P. Splendeur des Armes Orientales, Acte-Expo, Paris, 1988.