Three Hungarian-Style Shields, Wood, leather, gesso, polychromy, Eastern European

Three Hungarian-Style Shields

ca. 1500–1550
Eastern European
Wood, leather, gesso, polychromy
42.50.29: H. 50 in. (127 cm); W. 20 in. (50.8 cm); 42.50.30: H. 45 in. (114.3 cm); W. 25 in. (63.5 cm); 49.57.1: H. 32 1/2 in. (82.55 cm); W. 21 5/8 in. (54.91 cm)
Credit Line:
42.50.29, .30: Gift of Stephen V. Grancsay, 1942; 49.57.1: Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number:
42.50.29, .30; 49.57.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373
These wing-shaped shields, with the distinctive upward-sweeping back edge, were the characteristic light-cavalry shields of Hungary. During the sixteenth century, the style was adopted across much of eastern Europe by both Christian and Islamic horsemen. The shield's elongated upper edge was designed to defend the back of the head and neck against cuts from a saber, the preferred cavalry weapon in that region.

The shield on the right is painted on its exterior with the double-bladed sword of the prophet Muhammad and on its interior with the Crucifix and instruments of the Passion. This unusual mix of Islamic and Christian symbols suggests that the shield was used in a tournament by a Christian warrior dressed in Muslim fashion. In these "Hungarian style" tournaments, the participants wore Hungarian and Turkish costumes and used sabers to strike off feathers attached to their opponents' helmets and to the apex of their painted shields. Even at a time when Turkish armies were a constant threat to eastern Europe, their costumes and tactics were imitated by their foes.
42.50.29: Ex. coll.: Robert Curzon, 14th Baron Zouche of Haryngworth, Sussex; Clarence H. Mackay, Roslyn, New York. 42.50.30: Ex. coll.: Archduke Eugen, Castle Engelstein and Fortress Hohenwerfen, Austria; Clarence H. Mackay, Roslyn, New York. 49.57.1: Ex coll.: Albert Figdor, Vienna; Oscar Bondy, Vienna.
Gimbel, Karl Georg. Tafeln zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Schutz und Trutz-Waffen in Europa mit Ausschluss der Feuerwaffen vom VIII.–XVII. Jahrhundert. Baden-Baden: Ernst Kölblin, 1894.

Szendrei, János. Ungarische Kriegsgeschichtliche Denkmäler in der Milleniums-Landes-Austellung. Budapest: Kgl. Ung. Handelsminister, als Präses der Landes-Commission für die Millenniums-Ausstellung, 1896.

Cassirer, Paul, Theodor Demmler, Max J. Friedländer, Leo Planiscig, and August Schestag. "Kästchen und Schachteln des 14.-16. Jahrhunderts, Kästchen aus Metall, Glocken Mörser, Bronzegerät des Mittelalters Bronzeplatten von Epitaphien, Wappen und Totenschilder." In Die Sammlung Dr. Albert Figdor, Wien: Erster Teil. Vol. 5. Berlin: Paul Cassirer, September 29–30, 1930.

Nickel, Helmut. "Arms and Armor from the Permanent Collection." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (Summer, 1991), pp. 54–55, 64, ill. 49.57.1 only.