Skip to main content

The Shield of Achilles: M.1-1842

An image of Shield

Terms of use

These images are provided for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons License (BY-NC-ND). To license a high resolution version, please contact our image library who will discuss fees, terms and waivers.

Download this image

Creative commons explained - what it means, how you can use our's and other people's content.

Alternative views

Object information

Current Location: In storage


The Shield of Achilles


Designer: Flaxman, John (After)
Maker: Rundell, Bridge and Rundell
Chaser: Pitts, William (Probably)




Bronze, cast and chased. The design is inspired by the shield forged by the Greek god Hephaestus for Achilles during the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, and is described in detail in book 18 of Homer's 'Iliad' (lines 478-609). During the course of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, Achilles' close friend Patroclus was killed by the Trojan king's son Hector, whilst leading the Greeks disguised as Achilles. Hector took Achilles' armour from Patroclus' body. Achilles' mother, the nymph Thetis, asked Hephaestus to make a new set of armour for her son. Grief-stricken after the death of his friend, Achilles then wore the armour and used the shield in his famous fight against Hector, whom he killed. The centre of the shield depicts the heavens, with the chariot of the Sun surrounded by the constellations. The reliefs radiating outwards, around the centre of the shield, begin at the bottom with (1) the marriage procession and banquet, and proceed in an anticlockwise direction with: (2) the quarrel of citizens over a homicide and the judicial appeal by elders; (3) the siege and ambuscade; (4) the harvest field; (5) the grape harvest; (6) the shepherds defending their flocks; and (7) the Cretan dance. The border depicts the oceans. On the reverse there are four rings for suspension at the top, and a cross bar with a central hole. The reverse is engraved close to the edge 'DESIGNED AND MODELLED BY JOHN FLAXMAN RA/EXECUTED BY RUNDELL BRIDGE & RUNDELL JEWELLERS TO HIS MAJESTY/MDCCXXIV' (1824)


History note: Cast by Messrs. Rundell & Bridge

Legal notes

Given by Rundell and Bridge

Measurements and weight

Diameter: 89.50 cm

Place(s) associated

  • London ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Given (1842) by Rundell & Bridge


19th Century, Early#
George IV
Production date: AD 1824 : dated


It is unclear whether the idea for the shield came from Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the London-based royal goldsmiths and jewellers, or from John Flaxman. Nor is the exact date of the commission to Flaxman known. The first documented reference to the shield is in a letter of 29 October 1810 from Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, in which a payment of 100 guineas 'for the beautiful design of the shield of Achilles' is mentioned (volume of autograph letters to the poet William Hayley, now Fitzwilliam Museum, fol. 98). Flaxman recorded a further payment of £200 for the design on 4 January 1817 in his ledger, and a payment of £525 for the model on 20 January 1818. The model was probably made in wax or clay. It was then cast in plaster, and the finer details carved into it. It appears that three (or more) bronze casts were made (documented as finished by William Pitts), followed by the first cast in silver in summer 1819. The latter was probably the silver gilt cast bought by George IV in early 1821 (hallmarked for 1821-22), which was displayed at the coronation banquet that same year and remains in the Royal Collection. A total of five silver gilt casts were made. A limited edition of probably only three casts in plaster was also made. The present bronze cast is dated 1824.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted


  • Sculpture UK

Components of the work


Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Casting : Bronze, cast and chased

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: M.1-1842
Primary reference Number: 12198
External ID: CAM_CCF_M_1_1842
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 18 December 2023 Last processed: Monday 18 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "The Shield of Achilles" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-18 03:25:59

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=The Shield of Achilles |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-07-18 03:25:59|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Bootstrap HTML code for reuse

To use this as a simple code embed, copy this string:

<div class="text-center">
    <figure class="figure">
        <img src=""
        alt="The Shield of Achilles"
        class="img-fluid" />
        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">The Shield of Achilles</figcaption>

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...