What Shields and Panel Paintings Have in Common
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What Shields and Panel Paintings Have in Common

This talk was first given for Summer School on 28 July 2022. If you didn’t mean to come here, you can go ←back to talks

Shields from the Desert

Overview of a 20th century watercolour painting of one of the Roman shields from Dura-Europos (destroyed ca. 260 CE)

For more images of the shield with Trojan War paintings from Dura Europos on the Euphrates see https://www.getty.edu/publications/mummyportraits/part-two/16/#deepzoom-1603899484248950424

The Pitsa Panels, ca. 540-530 BCE

One of the Pitsa tablets from mainland Greece. Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greekreligion-animalsacrifice-corinth-6C-BCE.jpg

If you want to learn about the technical details of these paintings, a great free article is https://www.academia.edu/42817853/Colour_and_Painting_Technique_on_the_Archaic_Panels_from_Pitsa_Corinthia

Cowhide Shields from Egypt

Painted wooden figurines from the tomb of Mesehti in Upper Egypt (around 2000 BCE). Image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Warriors_figures_ushabtis.jpg

Middle Plank of a ‘Celtic’ Shield from La Tène

An intact spear and the middle plank of a shield from the famous excavations at La Tène, Switzerland. Planche II of P. Vouga, “La Tène: Quatrième Rapport, Foulles de 1910 et 1911,” Musée Neuchâtelois, XLIXme Année (1912) pp. 7-15 http://doc.rero.ch/record/12454

Viking Shield from the Isle of Man (10th century CE?)

Fragment of gesso from shield face, Ballateare, Man 10th cent., after Bersu and Wilson (1966). Image c/o Peter Beatson, “The ‘Viking Shield’ from Archaeology” (2003) http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/shield.html

A Central European Shield ca. 1450 CE

A jousting shield from Franconia. Restoration in the late 20th century revealed the original painting under a thick dark overpainting. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/22876

There are many more European painted shields in the Metropolitan Museum of Art such as https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/23333

A Shield by Khooshal Dhunjee and Sons ca. 1875 CE

A round dhál shield by Khooshal Dhunjee & Sons of Abmedabad, India (c. 1875?). For more information see the Metropolitan Museum of Art https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/702016

Desaturated Battles on Screen

The battle in Germania in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000)
Aragorn’s speech to his troops at the Black Gate in Peter Jackson’s Return of the King (2003)
a group of horsemen in quilted coats and caps charge with lances; the scene is dominated by grey and brown
The Tanguts (ake. Western Xia) charge in the climactic battle of Sergei Bodrov’s Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan (2007). This film was a German-Russian-Kazakh production.
The battle in Blaviken Market in in season 1, episode 1 of Lauren Schmidt-Hissrich’s “The Witcher” (Netflix, 2019) https://youtu.be/dkyxLodIrxo?t=32

It seems like this trope really became popular around the year 2000, because Hollywood fantasy films from the 1990s like Braveheart and DragonHeart do not use it. Can my readers think of any exceptions?


Peter Beatson, “The ‘Viking Shield’ from Archaeology.” Christobel & Peter’s Homepage (2010) http://members.ozemail.com.au/~chrisandpeter/shield/shield.html

Benton, Janetta Rebold (2009) Materials, Methods, and Masterpieces of Medieval Art. ABC-Clio: Santa Barbara, CA – Denver, CO – Oxford.

Hariclia Brecoulaki / Giorgios Kavvadias / Vasiliki Kantarelou / J. Stephens / A. Stephens, “Colour and Painting Technique on the Archaic Panels from Pitsa, Corinthia,” in S.T.A.M. Mols and E.M. Moormann (eds.), Context and Meaning (Peeters): Leuven, Paris, and Bristol CT, 2017 pp. 15-23


Faltermeier, Christel, and Rudolf Meyer (1995) “Appendix: Notes on the Restoration of the Behaim Shields,” Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 30 (1995) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/

Anne Gunnison, Irma Passeri, Erin Mysak, and Lisa Brody (2020) “16. Painted Roman Wood Shields from Dura-Europos.” In Marie Svoboda and Caroline R. Cartwright (eds.), Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project https://www.getty.edu/publications/mummyportraits/part-two/16/

Kimmig, Wolfgang 1940. “Ein Keltenschild aus Ägypten.” Germania Bd. 24 Nr. 2, pp. 106-111 http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:bsz:16-ger-413717

Nickel, Helmut (1995) “The Seven Shields of Behaim: New Evidence,” Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 30 (1995) https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/


Paul Vouga, La Tène, Monographie de la station publiée au nom de la commission des fouilles de La Tène (Karl W. Hiersemann: Leipzig, 1923)

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