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A Carved Leather Dhal (Shield) with silver bosses

Place of Origin: India, probably Deccan

Date: 1700-1701 AD

Diameter: 585mm (23.03 inches)

Reference: 478

Status: Available

Full Description:

This unique 17th or 18th century leather dhal (shield) mounted with attractive silver bosses with floral motifs, is probably from the Deccan, India.

Of circular form, with some slight distortion, the outer surface is intricately and profusely carved with traces of red pigment. At the centre, four mirrored cartouches sit within a circle, with the words:

'There is no hero like 'Ali, and there is no sword like dhul'faqar'

With the Islamic date 1112, which corresponds to 1700-1701 AD.

Two circular borders surround the cartouches, the first, containing flower heads within hearts, and the second, a long trailing Arabic inscription. The main body of the shield has eight larger, complex inscriptions within cartouches, each separated from the other by floral arrangements which almost appear to have an alum[1]-like structure. A floral border runs along the circumference, with traces of restoration, the edge being slightly upturned.  

Carved leather shields are rare, and one with Islamic inscriptions, such as this one, is especially significant.  A lacquered leather shield with gilt decoration, focusing on four inscriptions such as those on the present example, is in the Furusiyya Art Foundation[2], attributed to the 17th century. Another is held in our own inventory[3] and is also attributed to the Deccan and dated as 17th century.

Further research is needed, especially in translating the inscriptions, this may lead to more concrete attribution and to finding out more about this small group of leather carved shields.

[1] An Islamic standard, usually made from metal, popular in the Deccan.

[2] Bashir Mohamed, The Arts of the Muslim Knight: The Furusiyya Art Foundation Collection, 2007, p.377, no.357, inv. no.R-877.


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