Shield from the Bhutanese Royal Guard
Place of Origin: Bhutan
Date: 19th Century
Diameter: 470mm (18.50 inches)
This 19th century shield is of the distinctive type carried by the Bhutanese Royal Guard, however the quality and detail are more superior than most examples and suggest that perhaps, it was made for a higher-ranking man from within the royal guard. Made from animal hide, it has a black lacquer finish with a bright red, rolled border.
Mounted with four brass bosses, each is surrounded by a key pattern at their edges and elegantly engraved with matching scrolling cloud patterns. At the crest of the shield is a silver-coloured ad-chand (half-moon) with a gilded copper surya (sun), both of which represent upaya (method) and prajna (wisdom). Centrally anointed with a red tilak dot for protective luck.
At the rear of the shield can be found an attractive leather cushion with a bold green trim and metal fastenings at each four corners, securing two leather straps with red, plaited leather inserts, again a nice touch of detail not usually found on guards’ shields. Wrapped delicately around these holders is a long- wearing strap, weaved in traditional vibrantly coloured Bhutanese fabric.
Near-identical shields can be seen in a photograph dated 1905, being carried by the bodyguards of Ugyen Wangchuck, who would later become the first King of Bhutan, (see Schicklgruber & Pommaret, Pg225).
A similar shield is also kept in the Royal Armouries, Leeds, UK, currently on display in case 2 in the Oriental Gallery (No. XXVIA. 107); and another in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (No.36.25.630) see Stone, fig.69, p53.