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Ceremonial Shield

Arts of the Pacific Islands

The unparalleled virtuosity of the Solomon Islanders in the art of shell inlay is clearly demonstrated by this rare and richly embellished war shield, collected before 1852 by Surgeon Captain James Booth of the British Royal Navy. Only about twenty of these shields are extant today, and all are believed to have been made before 1840. Shell-inlaid shields were based on the more common elliptical wicker shields made on Guadalcanal and traded to Santa Isabel Islanders, who decorated the shield by covering it with red and black resins and setting in abstract linear designs created with small pieces of nautilus shell. Two detached heads and a face below, as well as a set of four double arrow-like points, distinguish this shield, whose characteristic design format is dominated by an anthropomorphic figure with upraised arms. These shields were too fragile for use and were designed as prestige items.
MEDIUM Basketry, nautilus shell, parinarium nut paste, pigment
DATES before 1852
DIMENSIONS 31 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (80.6 x 29.8 x 6.4 cm)  (show scale)
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Frank L. Babbott Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund
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CAPTION Ceremonial Shield, before 1852. Basketry, nautilus shell, parinarium nut paste, pigment, 31 3/4 x 11 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (80.6 x 29.8 x 6.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund and Carll H. de Silver Fund, 59.63. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE overall, 59.63_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Ceremonial shield, basketry base covered with red and black resin and inlaid with tiny mother-of-pearl squares in typical abstract human form design. Shield possibly used as currency. Condition: fragile but good; - considering type of object. Few pearl shell inlaid missing, resin cracked.
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