A rare and important silk robe, Sogdiana, Central Asia, 7th/8th Century
- silk brocade robe
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
This outstanding example of a Central Asian silk robe evokes the wealth and splendour of Sogdiana in the late Sassanian / early Islamic period. The range of stylistic and iconographic references reflects the extensive trading network of the Sogdians, whose mercantile empire, centred on Samarqand and Bukhara, controlled some of the major commercial arteries of the Silk Road.
Composed of multiple types of silks woven principally with red, blue, green, and cream threads, the tunic displays a number of motifs favoured by Sogdian silkweavers and derived from models stemming from China to Sassanian Persia.
The roundels feature both paired confronted lions and, on the sleeves, senmurvs, ancient symbols of the khvarnah (divine glory or good fortune) of the semi-mythological dynasty of the Kayanid dynasty of Greater Persian tradition and folklore. The depiction of paired lions alludes to their association with power and the historical symbolism of kingship, whether they are represented during a hunt or standing on their own, as emblems of protection.
An interesting comparison can be drawn to a silk fragment from the eighth century representing a stylised tree with hunters and lions on either side, now in the Museo Sacro, Vatican City. This Sassanian-derived motif is also found in Byzantium at the western extremity of the Silk Road, and on silk textiles preserved in the Shôsô-in, Kyoto, Japan, to the east (Beurdeley 1985, pp.126-127, no.124).
Such motifs were extensively used and transmitted as a common vocabulary which served an important function in the context of trade and diplomacy. A silk robe such as the present one would have represented a highly luxurious product indicating the wealth, status and aspirations of the wearer.
For a full discussion on luxury-silk weaving under the Sogdians in Central Asia, see: Watt, J., and A.,Wardwell, When Silk was Gold: Central Asian and Chinese Textiles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1997, pp.21-37.