| Shield


Shield 19th century or earlier
hardwood, brass, horn, pigment
90.8 (h) x 18.0 (w) x 10.0 (d) cm
Musée Barbier Mueller, Geneva
© Musée Barbier-Mueller Photograph: Studio Ferrazzini Bouchet


From Atauro Island, off the coast of East Timor, this rare delicately incised shield is surmounted by a compact human figure, possibly a deified ancestor. Of ambiguous gender, with delicately carved penis and breasts, its angular limbs and simple facial features, round metal eyes, armbands and headdress display many characteristics of eastern Indonesian animist sculpture. Shields of this type were not used in war, but traditionally belonged to shamans or magicians to give powers of flight and invisibility.

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