Lot 176
  • 176

A fine and impressive silk lampas robe, Central Asia, Sogdiana, 7th/8th century

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Silk, textile
of characteristic form with long sleeves and open front, large collar, woven with fine red, green, blue and cream silk threads, decorated with large medallions containing confronting winged horses and confronting deer, between floral medallions, each sleeve-end with a large version of the medallions, the winged horses on one side and deer on the other

Catalogue Note

This magnificent coat is a rare survivor of Sogdian silk production, evoking the wealth and luxury of the Silk Road. Characterised by a rich and broad cross-cultural mix, germinated at the crossroads of China, Central Asia and Persia, this robe plays an important part in our understanding of a nomadic civilisation in which wealth had to be transportable, leading to a fascinating fusion of artistic influences.

Sogdian silk manufacture was highly influenced by trade with China, whilst the decorative motifs were often derived from Sasanian models from Persia. For example, a woven inscription on a Chinese T’ang silk brocade from the Sinkiang Province, now in the Tokyo National Museum explicitly describes its design as: ‘flowering tree and facing deer’ (Hayashi 1975, pp.120-21, no.131), indicating its position in a well-known decorative repertoire. In fact, this theme can be traced back to a Sassanian origin, in which motifs such as the tree of life and mythological creatures held a symbolic spiritual meaning. The confronted horned deer and winged horses which populate this robe find widespread parallels on Sassanian silverware, notably used as handles, possibly explaining the upright position of the present animals. A stone relief from Persepolis dated to the fifth/six century BC, shows a Phoenician carrying an amphora with two winged horse-handles which he intends to present as an offering to King Darius (Beurdeley 1985, p.20, no.8). The medallion pattern also first makes its appearance on stone, notably on the robe of Khusraw (Chosroes) II ‘Parvis’ (r.590-628) on the rock-relief at Taq-i Bustan in Western Iran (Rogers 2007, p.55).

For a full discussion of luxury-silk weaving under the Sogdians in Central Asia, see J. Watt and A. Wardwell, When Silk was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997, pp.21-37.

This lot is accompanied by a Radiocarbon test confirming the date of manufacture between 664 and 769 AD.