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Saracen Armor, seventeenth century

Saracen Armor: Shield with Bosses, seventeenth century

Saracen Armor: Shield with Bosses, seventeenth century

Syrian
Saracen Armor: Shield with Bosses, seventeenth century
steel with inlaid silver
Gift of the Misses Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker
1894.84.2

This densely ornamented shield interweaves elements of language and weaponry, communication and conflict. The calligraphy around its rim invokes Allah (“God”), addressed as kafani (“is sufficient to me”); other portions are highly stylized Arabic script without decipherable meaning. Because representations of sacred figures are avoided in Islamic art, elaborate expressions of Qur’anic passages became a principal form of religious ornament. Such forms of piety endowed the wearer of this shield with protective powers. This shield is part of an entire suit of armor gifted by Mary Sophia and Harriet Sarah Walker in 1894 (see images below). Its presence is a testament of the global breadth of their collecting habits.

 

Detail: Saracen Armor: Shield with Bosses, seventeenth century

Detail: Saracen Armor: Shield with Bosses, seventeenth century

Saracen Armor: Mace, seventeenth century

Saracen Armor: Mace, seventeenth century

Saracen Armor: Helmet, seventeenth century

Saracen Armor: Helmet, seventeenth century