Place of Origin: Ahmedabad, Gujarat (India)
Date: 19th Century
Overall Length: 365mm (14.25 Inches)
The decorative schema of this shield places it firmly within a group produced in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. Its border depicts flourishing red blooms alternating with smaller green splays on a ground of cream-coloured paint. The main surface is filled throughout with dramatic, red-painted scenes on a striking black ground. Amidst a repeating foliate pattern are various hunting scenes: European men (recognisable on account of their pith helmets) hide in the brush and stalk a pair of tigers at rest, their rifles extending just a little beyond the dense foliage. Another panel shows two moustachioed Indian men already in combat with a tiger. One of the pair is held by the animal’s jaws and raises his sword high in defiance, whilst the other rushes over to aid his companion.
Four sunburst-bosses with stylised floral centres frame a central series of concentric circles which replicate the patterns shown at the shield’s border: geometric bands enclose a sequence of red and black flourishes, a flower of painted red and gold at its centre. The reverse depicts painted patterns of gold concentric circles on a red ground, and is attached with a fabric padding, leather straps and iron rings for suspension.
As is implied above, similar comparanda help to contextualise the present example. Thus see a shield at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number 2015.695) and the other pieces referenced within its cataloguing, which strongly suggest that the present piece was also made by Khooshal Dhunjee & Sons (or at least was made at the same workshop). As per the label of that shield, we even know that these “Painters and Shieldmakers” were based at Dhalgarwada Street. However, we do not know of another shield of this type that depicts such hunting scenes.