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Side view of shield showing convex shape which protected its bearer

Detail of shield front showing the narrow thongs that outline painted elements

Rawhide Shield
late 1700s

The Spanish-American adarga
This heart-shaped shield, or "adarga," is composed of two thick layers of rawhide, laced together with narrow thongs. A painted and lace-outlined design of a royal crown surmounting a coat of arms of Spain adorns the shield. The "Pillars of Hercules" represent the Strait of Gibralter, between Spain and Africa. The lion and castle represent the old Spanish kingdoms of Leon and Castilla (Castle), and the central fleur-de-lis stands for the French Bourbon rulers of Spain after 1700. The shield probably belonged to a military officer serving in northern Mexico during the late 1700s. The shield was undoubtedly made and painted by a professional artisan.

19" high x 22" wide
Painted rawhide sewn together with narrow leather thongs
Collected for the Smithsonian near Santa Fe, NM, in 1869
Web display only

Learn more!
· Excerpt of 1966 Conservation Report
· Excerpt from 1960 Report on Western Material at the Smithsonian

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