‘Shield of Parade’ representing chivalrous love (15th century)

The ‘Shield of Parade‘ is a 15th century artifact depicting a scene of chivalric love, which is currently housed in the medieval gallery of the British Museum.

The shield’s front panel portrays a youthful knight clad in battle armor. Genuflecting in a gesture of servitude toward the woman he loves, he grips a pole axe in one hand, while a sheathed sword rests at his side. Nearby, his helmet and gauntlets lie discarded. The figure of Death emerges from behind and gazes malevolently while reaching out to take the knight.

On the left side of the shield a noble lady stands projecting an air of arrogance. She is adorned in opulent attire, her gilded finery catching the light. A long hennin hat graces her head, its trailing silk veil draped own her back. Curiously, her facial expression conveys detachment, making her seem somewhat cold or dismissive to the dramatic scene unfolding before her.

A scroll of text floats above the knights head with the words “vous ou la mort,” which translates as “you or death” in French. These words reveal that this scene is one of  chivalric love, in which the knight would happily die proving his love than to dishonor his lady and lose her love by his poor performances in battle.

Feature image: British Museum ©