Royal Guards Shield
Place of Origin: Bhutan
Date: Late 19th Century
Overall Diameter: 475mm (18 ¾ Inches)
This Bhutanese royal guard’s shield from the late 19th century is made from rhino hide which has been finished with a black lacquer and painted in red at its rolled border. A silver-coloured ad-chand (half-moon) with surya (sun) are mounted at the top to signify ‘method’ (upaya) and ‘wisdom’ (prajna), below which sit four equidistant brass bosses and a silver-gilt repoussé plaque depicting scrolling foliage and a centrally swirling flowerhead. The reverse is fitted with its original red leather pad and straps which are attached to iron rings for suspension.
A photograph taken in 1905 shows near-identical shields carried by the bodyguards of Ugyen Wangchuck, the future first king of Bhutan. Two comparanda are to be found in the Royal Armouries (No. XXVIA. 107), as well as in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession No. 36.25.630). A similar shield was also published by Runjeet Singh in Arms & Armour from the East 2015, Cat. No. 42.
Private American Collection
Purchased from Arbour Antiques, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1992.
 See Christian Shicklgruber & Francoise Pommaret, Bhutan: Mountain Fortress of the Gods, 1998, p. 225.