Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Parade shield ('The Cellini Shield')
The shield is of blued steel, convex to the front and formed with a three-piece central boss terminating in a conical spike. The turned edge is counterfeit damascened in gold with fleur-de-lis in ‘basket handles’ (anse de panier). The edge is followed by forty-eight brass lining-rivets with domed heads. Decorated with concentric bands of exceptionally crisp embossing and very delicate counterfeit-damascening of silver and gold.
The second and fourth bands are each embossed on a matted ground with a series of radiating oval ‘mirrors’ framing central bosses and linked to one another by a pair of parallel lines framing a radial rectangle. Each boss is counterfeit damascened with silver and gold in a central quatrefoil flanked by symmetrical arabesques. There are forty-eight bosses in the second band and twenty-four in the fourth. The colours of the metal are counter-changed in alternate bosses.
The third and widest band is embossed with four panels of equal size divided by four radiating herms, each flanked by two S-scrolls of strapwork. Two of the herms are female with foliate arms and two are male, their arms confined by the strapwork. The four scenes, which are crowded with realistically proportioned people exceptionally well rendered, represent four episodes from the life of Julius Caesar: the Battle of Dyrrachium when Caesar's armour-bearer cuts off the arm of his assailant; the defilement of Caesar's robe by the blood of the sacrifice; the Battle of Pharsalus and death of one of Pompey's generals; and the head and ring of Pompey brought to Caesar on his arrival in Egypt.
The long inscription, applied in gold around the outer band edge, attributes the fall of both Pompey and Caesar to ambition, 'than which there is no more weighty evil'. The inscription, in gold counterfeit damascening, states '+ AMBITVS HIC MINIMVZ MAGNAM CAPIT AMBITIONEM./ QVAE REGNA EVERTIT DESTRVIT IMPERIA./ SVSTVLIT E MEDIO MAGNI VITAMQVE DECVSQVE./ POMPEII EVEXIT CAESARIS IMPERIVM./ CAESARIS IN COELVM MITIS CLEMENTIA FERTVR./ QVAE TAMEN HVIC TANDEM PERNICIOSA FVIT./ ANNVLVS EXCIT EI LACHRYMAS CERVIXQUE RESECTA./ POMPEII HINC PATVIT QVAM PROBVS ILLE FORET./ IN SACRIS DOCVIT VESTIS CONSPERSA CRVORE./ HVIC PRAESAGA MALI TALIA FATA FORE./ SI VIRES IGITVR SPECTAVENS (sic for SPECTAVERIS) AMBITIONIS./ NON GRAVIVS VIDEAS AMBITIONE MALVM +' (‘This tiny boundary holds boundless ambition which overthrows kingdoms and destroys empires. It destroyed both the life and the glory of Pompey the Great. It elevated the power of Caesar. The gentle clemency of Caesar is lauded to the sky, though in the end it was fatal to him. The ring and the severed neck of Pompey brought tears to Caesar’s eyes. From this it was clear how good a man Pompey was. The robe, spattered with blood during sacrifice, presaging evil for him, revealed that such would be Caesar’s fate. If, then, you look at the strength of ambition you would see no more terrible evil than ambition’.)
The fifth band, which forms the base of the central boss, is decorated with silver strapwork against a background of very fine gold arabesques.
The spike is decorated proximally, in gold and silver, with rays diverging from the centre, alternately flaming and straight tipped with fleurons, and all on a gold-dotted ground. The rim of the spike and the turned edge are decorated in gold with fleurons in ‘basket handles’ (anses de panier). The narrow bands separating the main bands are all delicately counterfeit.
The rear of the shield is covered with red plush over felt and fitted with four later iron rings for the attachment of brases, set in gilt-iron quatrefoil washers.
Tests undertaken by Dr Alan Williams show its microhardness to vary in the range 117-46 VPH. It is formed of an extremely soft iron with some slag-inclusions but almost no carbon content.
Measurements: diameter 58.4 cm, depth to point of boss 19.1 cm. Weight: 3.700 kg.
Text adapted from the forthcoming publication 'Arms and Armour in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen. Volume I: European Armour'
After Etienne Delaune (1518-83) (designer)
Antwerp [Belgium] (place of production)