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Home > Auctions > 2nd June 2020 > Scythian Gold Stag Shield Ornament

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LOT 0060

GBP (£) 25,000 - 35,000
EUR (€) 28,080 - 39,310
USD ($) 31,500 - 44,100

Sold for: £27,500
(Inc. bp*)

Scythian Gold Stag Shield Ornament

7th-6th century BC

An exceptional gold ornament representing a galloping stag, legs folded under the body, the erect head is surmounted by voluminous antlers in volutes adjoining the animal's hindquarters, two of the antlers extend forward in an S-shape, the rest unfolding in sinuous waves, the shoulder and the rump are rounded and the surface of the body is carved in a three-dimensional way, the round eye was probably jewel-encrusted originally, one fastener for fixing remains to the rear. 47.26 grams, 56.5mm (2 1/4"). Very fine condition, cleaned and polished, evidence of a recent brooch mount to the reverse. A rare object of exceptional workmanship and iconic in the world of Scythian art.

Condition report [Click to show]

Property of a London gentleman; previously in the Khatibi family collection, acquired from Naxos Art Gallery, 27 Mount Street, London, W1; formerly in an important family collection formed before 1970; accompanied by a copy of the original Naxos Art invoice dated 10 October 1985 and a positive metallurgic analytical result, written by Metallurgist Dr. Peter Northover (ex Department of Materials, Materials Science-Based Archaeology Group & Department of Materials, University of Oxford), number R5506; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.134261-10020; accompanied by an Art Loss Certificate no. S00157936.
This ornament is stylistically very similar to the one discovered in Krasnodar in 1897 by Vesselovsky and preserved in the Hermitage Museum (Kou 1897, 1/1) which adorned the centre of an iron shield. The animal is said to be conventionally 'lying down', in fact shows a contracted attitude not corresponding to rest, but rather to flight from an aggressor, the favourite theme of Scythian art and emblem of certain tribes of the steppe; see Hugh Honour and John Fleming, A World History of Art, 1982, London; Piotrovsky, Boris, et al. 'Excavations and Discoveries in Scythian', in From the Lands of the Scythians: Ancient Treasures from the Museums of the U.S.S.R., 3000 B.C.–100 B.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v.32, no.5 (1974); see a similar example exhibited and published in Jewellery from Persia, The collection of Patti Birch, Pforzheim, 1974, pp.52-53, no.40, subsequently sold by Pierre Bergé & Associés, 1st June 2012, lot 176 (sold for 500,000.00 euros).
In the early 18th century, Peter the Great of Russia ordered a scientific expedition to Siberia. His explorers discovered many large burial mounds (kurgans) at Stanitsa, located at the footsteps of the Caucasus Mountains. They were the hiding place for a vast cache of gold ornaments and objects, offering a glimpse into the sophisticated, and at that time unknown, Scythian culture.The haul included gold horses, lions, elks, boars and deer designed with extraordinary beauty and precision, as well as gold handles for swords, shield mounts, intricate horse saddles and bridles, which all offered a window into this newly discovered magical world.

The main Scythian kurgan or burial mound was where a Scythian gold stag was found, next to the iron shield it decorated. It is one of the most famous pieces of Scythian art, and is now in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Apart from the principal male body with his accoutrements, the burial included thirteen humans with no adornments, and around the edges of the burial twenty-two horses buried in pairs. The kurgan was excavated by the Russian archaeologist N. I. Veselovski in 1897.