Tiger plaque

Tiger plaque

Item description

  • Tiger plaque
  • Gold
  • South Siberia (?), 6th – early 5th century BC
  • L: 4.75 сm; H: 2 сm; weight: 26 gr.
  • Provenance: English Private Collection

The plaque is a solid profile cast in the shape of a crouched feline. It is shown with folded paws, pendant tail and its head resting on its front paws. Two prominent fangs are shown in its wide-open jaws: the outer grows downwards while the inner grows upwards. It has a large, bold eye and oversize ear. Curved ridges are used to depict wrinkles on its nose and the fur on its cheek. Five sinuous ridges mark the side of its lean body. A robust strip of wire is soldered to the ends of the plaque along its longitudinal axis.

The loop running across the length of the plaque indicates that it was mounted on a strap, either a baldric or a horse-bridle. On the S-shaped plaques, decorating the dagger-belt from the male burial in Arzhan-2 barrow, there are also similar massive loops, which were made of metal strips soldered to the rear of the plaques. Comparable massive loops occur on the four identical bridle-plaques from the Siberian Collection, showing the recumbent wolf, however, the loops on these plaques were cast together with the plaques.

The pose of the predator, as well as the treatment of the details (eye, ear, jaw, and claws) suggest a date anywhere from the 6th to the early 5th century BC. Thus, felines in similar poses decorate the hilt and the decorative plaque attached to the blade of the dagger from the 7th century BC male burial in the barrow Аrzhan-2, as well as a hilt of a dagger from the village of Turan in Tuva. Felines in a similar pose are carved in a wooden quiver from the barrow no. 1 of the Ak-Alakha-I necropolis of the Mountaineous Altai and decorated the bronze Tagar axe from the Krasnoyarsk area, dated to the 7th-6th centuries BC. A special attention attracts, however, a bronze torc from Siberia from the former Stroganov Collection, now in the Hermitage; it shows terminals in the form of “scratching” tigers. Images of crouched felines with disproportionately large eyes are characteristic of the art produced in the vast Scythian territories stretching from South Siberia and North China to the North Pontic area. A similar treatment of jaws, however with numerous similarly alternating teeth, may be seen, for instance, on a bronze plaque with a coiled feline from the 7th century BC Arzhan-1 barrow, on the above-mentioned bronze torc with the terminals in the form of tigers from Siberia in the jaws of the tigers there are shown two teeth, at the very edge of the mouth.

The treatment of its fur as wavy bands suggests that the feline is meant to represent a tiger, a creature characteristic of the Scytho-Siberian animal style, for instance, on the hilt and on the cross guard and on the plate, decorating the blade of the dagger from Arzhan-2 barrow, on some bridle plaques with the images of tigers from the Siberian Collection, on the engravings of the wooden sarcophagus from the Bashadar barrow no. 2 in the Altai mountains. Additional details such as the eyes, open jaws with alternating fangs and paws with predatory claws, are also typical of images of Scytho-Siberian art.

This expressively treated miniature tiger is a particularly impressive example of the Archaic Scytho-Siberian style.

On images of crouched felines in Scythian art, see Онайко 1966b, 162-165; Ильинская 1971, 64-85; Погребова и Раевский 1992, 96-104; Bunker 1997, 171, no. 79; 188, no. 111; 189, no. 112; 208-209, no. 146; Королькова 2006, 72-73, табл. 28; Богданов 2006, 42-45; 55-60; 82-87.– On the images of tiger in the art of South Siberia, see Баркова 1985, 30-44; Королькова 2006, 82, табл. 34-35. – On the images of tigers on the gold belt plaques from the Siberian collection of the Peter the Great, see in general: Артамонов 1973, 128-132; and Rudenko 1962, pl. VI, 3; Schiltz 1994, 236, fig. 173; Cat. Trieste 2001, 126-127, no.105. – On the bridle plaques from Siberian collection see Rudenko 1962, 51, Taf. IV, 1; Cat. Trieste 2001, 114, no. 79. – On the S-shaped plaques from Arzhan-2 barrow, see Čugunov et al. 2006, 120, no. 12, pl. 25. – On the dagger from Tuva, see Cat. Hamburg 1993, 226, no. 146.– On a wooden quiver from Ak-Alakha-I necropolis, see Полосьмак 1994, 30, рис. 21; 32, рис. 24. – On the Tagar axe from the Krasnoyarsk area, see Завитухина 1983, № 185; Cat. Hamburg 1993, 222, no. 136. – On the bronze torc from the former Stroganov collection, see Rudenko 1962, 21, fig. 10; Cat. Hamburg 1993, 227, no. 147. - On a bronze plaque from Arzhan-1 barrow, see Грязнов 1980, 26, 28, рис. 15, 4; Rolle 1989, 41-42, fig. 20; Schiltz 1994, 18, fig. 7; 74, fig. 52; 255, fig. 189. – On the daggers from Arzhan-2 barrow and on the wooden sarcophagus from Bashadar barrow no. 2, see bibliography to cat. no. 1

On the gold ornaments in the form of “flying” stags and their function as shield emblems, see: Rostowzew 1931, 284; Артамонов 1968, 10-11; Galanina 1997, 116; Černenko 2006, 110, 114, 119; as decorations of the quivers, see: Алексеев 1996, 130-134; Кисель 2003, 47. – On images of “flying” deer in the Scythian art, see: Канторович 1996, 52; Алексеев 2003a, 176. – On images of recumbent stags in 5th c. BC Scythian art, see: Канторович 1996, 55. – On the combination of stag and birds of prey in Scythian art, see: Schneider and Zazoff 1994, 187 ff. – The gold plate from Kostromskaya, see: Artamonow 1970, pl. 62-64; Galanina and Grach 1986, fig. 16; Анфимов 1987, 84-85; Cat. Hamburg 1993, 47, no. 12; Schiltz 1994, 14-15, fig. 5; 84, fig. 62; 87, 159, fig. 17; Jacobson 1995, 258-259, no. X.B.3, fig. 123; Cat. Bonn 1997, 76-77, no. 4; Cat. New York 2000, no. 140; Галанина 2006, 72, fig. 101; Galanina 2007, 200, fig. 2. – The gold plate from Kul’-Oba, see: Артамонов 1968, 9-16; Artamonow 1970, pl. 264-265; Galanina and Grach 1986, fig. 213; Cat. Hamburg 1993, 126-127, no. 62; Schiltz 1994, 158-159, fig. 116; Королькова (Чежина) и Алексеев 1994; Cat. Bonn 1997, 158-159, no. 65. – The gold finial from Ulskii barrows no. 2/1909, see: Анфимов 1987, 87. – On the dating of the Ulskii barrows, see: Галанина и Лесков 1996, 13-15. – The gold finial in the form a stag head from Ulyap barrow no. 1, see Анфимов 1987, 143; Cat. Mannheim 1989, no. 7, pl. 22; Leskov 1990, no. 61, fig. 169; Кат. Москва 2002, № 610.

Technical Comments:

This attachment is in sold gold cast in one piece, including the simple strap attachment at the back. The front, however, was extensively hand worked after casting. The use of casting was not common in ancient Old World gold objects, but one major exception was in Central Asia and as Far East as Mongolia and China. The object was not analysed, but its colour suggests that it is a gold-silver alloy