Collection online

The Woodward Shield / Dr Woodward's Shield

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • The Woodward Shield
    • Dr Woodward's Shield
  • Description

    Buckler; iron; circular; concave towards front; raised central circle: hollow, concave towards body; central boss in form of grotesque mask; central hole for spike in middle of mouth; overall repoussé decoration representing ruins of Rome burned by the Gauls and the weighing of gold for ransom; inside: riveted patch of iron and band of iron around edge of shield; one remaining ornate projecting clasp from cross-bar; traces of gilding outside.


  • Date

    • 1540-1550 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 36.5 centimetres
    • Weight: 1250 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    See the monograph by Joseph M.Levine, 'Dr Woodward's Shield: history, science and satire in Augustan England', Berkeley California, 1977

    According to tradition, discarded from the Royal Armouries at the end of the reign of Charles II, then to John Conyers, who sold it to Woodward. The scenes are so close to ancient accounts by Livy and Plutarch that Woodward thought the Shield had been made at the same time as the events depicted rather than as illustration of the texts. Woodward's treatise on the shield, printed in 1713, prompted Pope's satire of the same year on the follies of antiquarianism.
    Beautiful engraved illustration of the buckler in preface to Woodward's dissertation in Dodwell, De Parma Equestri, London 1713. We have a copy of Henry Dodwell's Dissertation given by his son, also called Henry Dodwell, in the Department Library of MME, with Latin dedication inscription on the flyleaf.


  • Bibliography

    • Levine 1977 bibliographic details
    • Dodwell 1713 bibliographic details
    • Sloan 2003 pp. 21-2 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G1/wp179

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    30 September 1993

    Reason for treatment

    Permanent Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Clean to improve appearance. Repair central boss area, replacing old patch. Reveal and improve the remaining gilding traces. . .


    Surface of shield dusty and dirty with traces of remaining gilding obscured. Evidence of old surface coating. Old repair patch to central boss made of leather and secured with animal glue.

    Treatment details

    Surface cleaned with swabs of acetone. Coated with a layer of Renaissance wax (cosmolloid 80H-microcrystalline wax,BASF hard wax "A"-polyethylene wax,white spirit) to protect the surface. Old repair mechanically removed, and the rear surface cleaned. A shaped piece of brass wa sinserted from behind and secured in position with Super epoxy (epoxy). The surface was then covered with a layer of Plastic Padding Elastic filler. The detail was sculpted onto the surface with Bonda filler SL (polyester, inert filler), and carved to shape once hard. The repaired area was then painted with white shellac and powder pigments to give the desired coloured finish. The rear of the brass repair was painted in a similar way.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Dr Woodward's shield;Dr Woodward's shield


COMPASS Title: Dr Woodward's shield;Dr Woodward's shield

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCN11670

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help