Inlaid shields created in the Solomon Islands are dazzling and enigmatic objects. Most consist of ordinary basketry fighting shields, which have been overmodeled with resin, painted, and inset with mother-of-pearl inlays cut from chambered nautilus shell. The imagery represented consistently depicts a human figure. The subject may be a warrior or protective spirit that frequently appears above a horizontal band adorned with smaller human faces, possibly alluding to the former practice of headhunting. Too delicate for use in combat, these shields were almost certainly symbolic objects carried as marks of martial prowess by chiefs and prominent warriors.
From the outset the acquisition of an inlaid shield from the Solomon Islands was a priority for the MPA collection. The "Desiderata" for this canonical genre sketched by d'Harnoncourt in the Oceanic notebook was a nearly identical example in the Museum of Bordeaux in France. One of only roughly two dozen known, this one was owned successively by two Scottish museums from 1836 until 1959 before it was acquired and sold to Rockefeller by New York dealer John J. Klejman.
Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland, until 1959; [John J. Klejman, until 1959]; Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York, 1959,on loan to The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1959–1972; The Museum of Primitive Art, New York, 1972–1978
Museum of Primitive Art. Masterpieces in the Museum of Primtive Art: Africa, Oceania, North America, Mexico, Central to South America, Peru. Handbook series. New York, NY: Museum of Primitive Art, 1965, 51.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of Oceania, Africa, and the Americas from the Museum of Primitive Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969, no. 69.
The American Federation of Arts. Primitive Art Masterworks: an exhibition jointly organized by the Museum of Primitive Art and the American Federation of Arts, New York. New York: The American Federation of Arts, 1974, no. 116.
Newton, Douglas. Masterpieces of Primitive Art: The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978, p. 18, 136.
Waite, Deborah. Art of the Solomon Islands: From the Collection of the Barbier-Müller. Geneva: Musée Barbier-Mueller, 1983.
Waite, Deborah. "Exploring Solomon Islands Shields: Vehicles of Power in Changing Museum Contexts." In Pacific art:: Persistence, Change, and Meaning, edited by Anita Herle. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002, p. 189.
Kjellgren, Eric. Oceania: Art of the Pacific Islands in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York and New Haven: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, 99, 168-69.