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Tooled and signed dhal (shield)

Place of Origin: Ahmedabad, Gujarat (India)

Date: 19th Century

Diameter: 350mm

Reference: 519

Status: Reserved

Full Description:

A tooled, painted, lacquered and signed dhal from nineteenth-century Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

A signature on its reverse helps us identify the makers.1

Painter & shield maker

Khusal Dhunjee & Sons




Although shields of this type, often attributed to Ahmedabad, are not uncommon, signed specimens with their maker’s mark are. A similar shield was published by us in 2015 and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (accession no.2015.695).2

The Khusal Dhunjee & Sons family firm was prolific in shield-making and painting in India, but they rarely signed their work. When they did, the intention was to vaunt and remark an exceptional example. Being already part of a rare group of signed shields, this dhal is further set apart by its decoration. Of round and convex form, it is made of thick animal hide and enhanced with deeply tooled concentric bands, the widest of which is filled in with dense floral scrollwork, featuring four large marigolds alternating four large, frilled carnations; all connected to and surrounded by undulating leafy stalks. The centre is painted in polychromes and decorated with a wheel of minute flowers on a red ground, which is encircled by concentric friezes of repeating leaves and blossoms. A high collet with a green glass stone is set in the middle. This may have been possibly a later replacement. Next to it, four repoussé copper-gilt bosses echo the floral décor of the centre. Their top collets are now set with decorative red glass stones. They may have originally been garnets and rubies.

The outer rim of this dhal is slightly turned up and painted in off-white, mirroring a painted band at the centre. The reverse presents a hand cushion, the stuffing of which is now exposed due to wear. It also presents two handles covered in red brocade fixed to four iron rings, which secure the four bosses in place.

The depth of tooling is thought to be unique within this group of Ahmedabadi shields.


Private New York collection

Collection of Edward Frey (1920-2003) Miami, Florida


1Bombay here refers to the Bombay Presidency see link in footnote no.2.



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