Large Polychrome Hide Dhal
Origin: India (Ahmedabad - Gujrat)
Date: 19th century
Size: 22.5 inch diameter
Materials: Leather (Hide), brass, cotton and steel
A Large 19th Century Indian Polychrome Finished Hide Shield, Dhal: Ahmedabad, (Gujarat) - c.1850.
The dhal is a type of shield found in the Indian subcontinent. They are geometrically round and vary in diameter from about eight inches to twenty-four inches. The large sizes were ideal for battle and very practical. Most shields are circular while others are strongly convex or curved for extra reinforcement and to cause a lance head or arrow to glance off or slip from the curved surface. Dhal shields were either made from metal or hide; hide being more popular. Leather shields were made from a great variety of animals found in the Indian subcontinent. The hide shields were made from either water buffalo, deer, elephant, or rhinoceros. These materials were lightweight yet very strong when dried and lacquered. The rhinoceros shields were the most prized variant among leather shields.
Our particular example is from Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad is a city in Gujarat, northwest India. This particular location was once famous for making shields. These types of Dhals are specifically from this locality and not found elsewhere. This helps us pinpoint where our particular example was from and attribute it to Ahmedabad.
This particular example is made of rawhide and lacquered with geometric designs and patterns. A design that is eloquent and finely executed. The patterns are repeated throughout the shield and lead to the centre stylised symmetrical circular motif. The circular motif is of a contrasting colour to provide a nice appeal to the design of the dhal. Surrounding the motif are four brass bosses which hold the nuts for the rings on the inside of the dhal to secure the cushion/padding. The main body of the shield is covered with a repeating pattern of undulating leafy stalks painted in red on a black ground. This is encircled by a pebbled band then an off-white band with a repeating leaf and blossom pattern. The outer edge of the shield has an undecorated rounded lip.
Overall Good condition. There is wear at the edges, associated with genuine age and usage. Wear also to the the rear where the grip strap would have been. No repairs. Featuring natural colour and patina.
The way in which the dhal is painted is very similar to shields made in Gujrat. For shields with similar painted designs see: The Royal Collection, RCIN: 38128 - presented to the Prince of Wales 1875-76 by the Nawab of Balasinor, Bombay Presidency.
For another comparable shield, see Met Museum Accession Number: 2015.695. That shield was made by Khooshal Dhunjee & Sons / Painter and Shield makers / Dhalgarwada Street / City Ahmedabad / Bombay Presidency / India.
Our examples' features are strikingly similar in both style and design to both these examples.
Overall a large dhal of good quality with natural age and use related wear. The design is still very prominent after many years. A nice example of a dhal which is becoming difficult to obtain in the current market.