The connoisseur antiquarian Thomas Hope (d. 1831) commissioned this romantic shield for a Drawing Room lamp at his Duchess Street mansion museum, which was designed by the architect C. H. Tatham (d. 1842) as a 'Columbarium' for Sir William Hamilton's Greek vase collection purchased in 1801 at Christie's (D. Watkin, 'Thomas Hope's house in Duchess Street', Apollo, March 2004, pp. 31-39). It represents the shield of Minerva, protectress of the Arts, and displays the Gorgon Medusa's head, which was presented to the deity by the hero Perseus. The source is likely to have been the Medusa sculpted in one of Hope's marble tripod tazze (The Hope Collection, The Lady Lever Art Gallery, Catalogue, London, fig. 33).
The shield's ivy ribbon inlay evokes the Athenian Dionysus temple erected by Lysicrates (J. Stuart & N. Revett, Antiquities of Athens, 1762). Hope, who subscribed to Tatham's Etchings of Ornamental Architecture, 1801, no doubt participated in Tatham's preparations for his Ornamental Plate, 1806. They are likely to have collaborated on the invention of the Minerva shield, which Hope illustrated in his Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807, (pls. 5 & 38). The narrative theme of Hope's furniture is likewise reflected in his 'Aurora' lantern, which derives in part from Percier & Fontaine's Receuil de décorations intérieures, 1801 (ibid., pl. 5). The latter (unpublished) lantern is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Hope's publication praised the work of Alexis Decaix, the Piccadilly bronze-founder, who is likely to have executed the shield.