The Wallace Collection

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Parade shield
  • Parade shield
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Flanders or France
  • 1523 - 1578
  • Steel, textile and gold, embossed, chiselled and gilded
  • Diameter: 55 cm
    Weight: 3.2 kg
  • A320
  • European Armoury II
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Parade shield or target, circular and convex, of steel, with the outer edge turned over and bordered with rivets for the lining strap (of which fragments remain). It is embossed in low relief with two conjoined oval panels decorated in great detail with a military scene; in the lunette above are the arms of France within the collar of St. Michael supported by winged putti, in the lunette below are two seated female figures among trophies, the one pointing to a globe, the other to the sky above; the circular border is decorated with fourteen crabs, alternating with dolphins; the whole has been skilfully embossed, chiselled ad gilt, but little of the gilding now remains. The foreground of the design is executed in a very low relief, the embossing being reduced in the middle distance, and ultimately replaced in the extreme distance by surface chasing.

    Sir Samuel Meyrick suggested that the subject represented is the retreat of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, after his advance to within eleven leagues of Paris, and his defeat near Bray-sur-Somme in 1523. Unfortunately, the Latin inscription, which was damascened in gold on a band encircling the oval panels and probably described the scene is defaced, and only disconnected letters and syllables are now decipherable. Across both panels runs a river with cities and forts in the distance; the foreground shows undulating country filled with the advancing troops on the left, the retreating troops on the right, both banks of the river being lined with fortifications. Meyrick considered that, since geographical correctness was not to be expected, the country represented was probably that lying between the bridge at the Bray and the coast as far as Calais, with 'Boulogne identified by the Tour de l' Ordre, called 'The Old Man' by the English; the forts of St. Valéry and La Ferté by their position; the towns of Arras, Cambray, Abbeville, Montdidier and, perhaps, Amiens, with the castles of Bray and Hesdin'. The details on the shield, however are perhaps too meagre to sustain such precise identification, and the subject might equally be the taking of Calais by the duc de Guise in 1558.
    The presence of the collar of the Order of St. Michael but without that of the Holy Spirit determines the latest possible date to be 1578, when the latter order, which took precedence of the former, was founded.

    Meyrick stated that this piece 'was exhumated in France, and has suffered greatly from the pickaxe which was struck through it, and from the hole thus made was broken into three parts...It has been rescued from entire destruction by Count Vassali, who, after directing the several pieces to be cautiously and skilfully united, brought it with great care to this country'. The hole made by the pickaxe remains, and at the back are the steel straps that were soldered on to keep the three pieces together; the lining of red velvet was presumably added at the same time.

    The motif of the crab is also prominent in the decoration of the burgonet and pageant shield in the Musée de l' Armée, Paris, which were once thought to have belonged to Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, third Duke of Alba (1508-83); they are inv. nos. H.254 and I.62 respectively (Robert, No. I, 62; Niox, Pl. XLI).
    A series of drawings for embossed armour in the print cabinet at Munich, published by Hefner-Alteneck in 1889, are the basis of the study of the 'Louvre School' and include designs for: (1) the armour of Berhard von Weimar, formerly in the Wartburg and now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York; (2) portions of the armour of Rudolf II at Vienna; (3) shield of Henri II at New York; and (4) this shield in the Wallace Collection (Grancsay, Met. Mus. Bulletin, Oct., 1952, and Summer 1959; n.s. Vol. XI, pp. 68-80, and n.s. Vol. XVIII, pp. 1-7. cf Nos. A172 and A321 below).

    The sixteenth-century English translator 'I.G. gentleman' (see also under A317) translated the Italian term ‘la rotella’, used by Giacomo di Grassi (p. 75) to describe this kind of shield, as the 'rounde Target' in 'Giacomo di Grassi his true arte of defence' (London 1594), (fol. L 3 verso). B. Thomas, Vienna Jahrbuch, LVIII, pp. 105-6, illustrates the original drawing for the top and bottom sections of the decoration of the frame (fig. 81). He relates this shield to the Schlangengarnitur made for Henri II of France between 1556-9. The only other parts of this garniture now known to survive are two plates from the horse armour in the Kienbusch collection in the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a third in the Musée de Cluny, Paris (CL 1345).