Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Maybe Scythian Stuff in the Louvre?

Apologies for the wait. Between collections work, sightseeing, some professional service work, keeping up another blog to meet one of the requirements for one of my fellowships,and resting from doing all that, I'm only now getting time to write stuff up here. But more will follow shortly. :)

It turns out the Louvre doesn't actually have any Sarmatian stuff. I wish I'd saved the link that pulled Sarmatian stuff up on a search because I have no idea why it told me they did. They have one thing in the collections which references the Sarmatians (a Roman relief commemorating some of Hadrian's victories over them), but no actual stuff of their's according to a search through their online database. I went through the Iranian area (Iranian meaning cultures-and-empires-based-in-Iran, not all Iranian ethnicities) just to see what was there.

The database mentions an Achaemenid bracelet that might have been made by the Scythians. I found some artifacts on display that look familiar after having looked at a lot of pictures of Scythian metalwork. But there's no way to be sure they actually made it because the Louvre is an art museum and art museums do this thing where they hardly give you any information on the labels. Just name, material, date, donator, and date of aquisition.

---Dear art museums,
I know you want us to spend our time looking at the art pieces, but I would be able to appreciate them more if you'd give me a contextual framework in which to appreciate them. I know I could have rented an audio guide, but I highly doubt you consider the pieces I'm interested in important enough to tell me about them in there. And I know you sometimes have guided tours, but same thing there. So....more informative labels, please?

So, given the lack of information (I only knew they were found within the boundaries of an Iranian empire because that's what the rooms' themes were.), there's no way for me to know if those pieces were: 1) made by the Scythians and traded to someone in an Iranian empire; 2) made by someone in an Iranian empire copying Scythian art style; or 3) representative of that Iranian empire's art style which happens to be similar to the Scythian's because they used to be the same people way, way back in the day. That being said, here are the artifacts I saw which might fall in one of the three categories above.

Colored relief of Assyrian griffins.
 Assyrian griffins look different from Scytho-Sarmatian griffins, but still quite fun. They have lion heads instead of eagle heads, horns instead of fin manes, and eagle back feet instead of lion back feet. But notice the colored blotches on their flanks? Look reminiscent of some Scythian style art you've seen before on this blog?

Bronze quiver plates (leather's rotted away) and arrows. 8th-7th centuries BC
The designs on the cases look nothing like Scythian cases (aside from griffins attacking a prey animal in the upper right being a familiar motif). But the cases themselves are the same type of design- bronze on leather with panels of scenes on them.

Bronze bracelets, 8th-7th centuries BC
Torses ending in animal heads were common in Scytho-Sarmatian jewelery, though these specific designs don't ring any bells for me.

Something made of bronze. That's all the label said.
 The label called these branches. They look vaguely reminiscent of the "Tree of Life" motif, but I don't know if it's an actual correlation or the human tendency to see patterns even when they aren't there.

Bronze plaque. Label says "Fin du Fer I"....End of the Iron Age?
There were several openwork plaques similar to the above. From far away they look like deer heads seen from the front. Close up, they're made of a pair of ibexes, sometimes with extra ibex or dragon heads popping out of strange places. They reminded me of Scythian art, though no particular pieces are coming to mind. And since I'm traveling, I don't have my books with me to search for them.

So that was the Louvre. Next up, the British Museum, where I had a bit more luck.

1 comment:

  1. I love both the Scyths and Sarmatians and enjoyed this posting very much. I am in a Amazon group (on Facebook) created by Adrienne Mayor, a historian who writes about peoples and cultures from classical/ancient history. We got into some Russian articles that said Amazons and Scythians mixed to create the Sarmatians. Adrienne has also written about Amazons as Scythian Queens, not women who lived independently from men, but Warrior women who were powerful in their own right.