18thC MEWARI SHIELD
Place of Origin: MEWAR, INDIA
Date: 18th Century
Diameter: 600mm (23 ½ Inches)
A range of fantastic animal-scenes are painted in miniature at the edge of this fine shield: stubborn rams lock horns; jungle cats stalk and spring towards prey; and human hunters string their bows. In their movement, the animals variously push together and pull apart, imbuing the entire sequence with a vivid tension.
Rising from the painted brim are four rocky outcrops flecked with tufts of grass, each acting as the platform for a dramatic struggle between predator and prey, as a variety of animals succumb to marauding lions and tigers whose manes and stripes are picked out in sharp detail. The contrast created against the shield’s black-painted leather surface invites the viewer to inspect these details all the more closely. Two tigers even return our gaze, staring with wide eyes directly out at the viewer - perhaps to let us know we may be next!
Surya, the sun god from whom many Rajput elders claim descent and the insignia of the Mewar royal court, looks out from the shield’s centre surrounded by a band of bright sunrays. Around this central panel are four domed bosses with openwork patterning and gently undulating edges, each set on a red fabric base. A red velvet cushion-pad with straps, through which the wearer would place their arm, is fitted to the back of the shield.
Similar examples published by Runjeet Singh Ltd shed further light on the present shield’s artistic context, particularly an example published in The Goddess: Arms and Armour of the Rajputs - London 2018 (No. 28), which shows a similar scheme and style of decoration in its animal scenes. An example preserved at the National Museum in Delhi and bearing the name of Maharana Sangram Singh II also constitutes an important comparandum in this case.
Private collection, England.
Purchased in India in 1964, purportedly from the collection of the Maharana of Udaipur.
 See Runjeet singh, The Goddess: Arms and Armour of the Rajputs - London 2018, No. 28, pp.82-83, as well as the reference there cited.
 See G.N. Pant, K.K. Sharma, Indian Armours in the National Museum Collection, New Delhi National Museum, 2001, p.88, no.77.