Ceremonial shield

India, South China or Ryukyu Islands (present-day Japan)

16th century

Wood, leather, oriental black lacquer, gilded and painted, velvet, cotton, metal nails. Traces of golden thread on the handles.

Inventory sheet

A ceremonial shield in leather-covered wood, lacquered in black with gilt and red ornamentation. The centre of the front features a coat-of-arms, which is now impossible to make out completely. The decoration on the back consists of Chinese motifs: multiple vine branches with hanging bunches, peonies, two birds and two animals, which may be squirrels or mongooses.

Certainly commissioned by a Portuguese nobleman, this shield clearly represents the richness of the web of commercial and cultural relations established by the Portuguese in Asia during the 16th century. It is a hybrid piece in which manufacturing techniques and materials from Portuguese India and China converge with European taste. There are around 20 of these shields in European and North American collections.