Shield of Henry II of France (reigned 1547–59)

Date: ca. 1555

Culture: French

Medium: Steel, gold, silver

Dimensions: H. 25 in. (63.5 cm); W. 18 in. (45.7 cm); Wt. 7 lb. (3175 g)

Classification: Shields

Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1934

Accession Number: 34.85


The battle scene at the center is thought to depict the victory of Hannibal and the Carthaginians over the Romans in Cannae in 216 B.C., which here could be interpreted as an allusion to the struggle of France against the Holy Roman Empire during the sixteenth century. In the strapwork borders are the intertwined letters: H for Henry II (reigned 1547–59); C for Catherine de Médicis, his queen; and possibly also D for Diane de Poitiers, his mistress. Interspersed with the initials are crescents, the king's personal badge and a reference to the moon goddess Diana and her namesake Diane de Poitiers.

The design is very similar to a series of drawings for the decoration of armor attributed to Etienne Delaune, Jean Cousin the Elder, and Baptiste Pellerin, all artists active in Paris.