A scalloped silver-gilt bowl with Armenian inscription, Caucasus region or Cilician Armenia, 13th/14th century
on short foot, the exterior with six lobes decorated with floral and figural motifs against a dotted ground, a geometric and floral frieze running along the rim and in-between the lobes, the inside with a roundel with a pair of sturgeon, the reverse with an inscription in Armenian around a flower
11.5.cm. diam; 6.5cm. height
In overall good condition, a small break running along the foot no longer than 2.5cm, minor dents and scratches, losses to the gilt and some oxidation consistent with age, as viewed.
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. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Michailas Percovas (1919-2001), Vilnius, 1970s.
V. Lichtenshayn, Germany and Scotland, since 1992.
Michailas Percovas was a Lithuanian painter and scenographer. He studied painting at the Odessa School of Art from 1936-39, and from 1959-79 taught at the Lithuanian Conservatory. His works are in the collections of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art; the Lithuanian Museum of Theatre, Music and Cinema, and the A.A. Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum, Moscow.
The inscription around the foot reads ‘Girgor Petrosov’; ‘Girgor’ should read ‘Grigor’; the carver, probably not Armenian, likely misread the name and inverted the letters ‘r’ and ‘i’.
The present piece displays features characteristic of vessels found in various locations along the river systems draining the Ural mountains, and successfully fuses a complex international blend of Judeo-Christian, Byzantine and Islamic elements. The workmanship is extremely fine, comprising deeply carved and applied knotted and floral motifs, finely engraved surface decoration and a lobed form deriving from larger vessels produced between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries in Asia Minor and further afield in the Seljuq and Mongol kingdoms (see, for example, a silver bowl in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection, London, inv. no.MTW 1313, and another in the Keir Collection, currently on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, inv. no.K.1.2014.79).
The engraved lobes comprise the following decoration: two mythical beasts, a griffin and sphinx, flanking a twisted pendant stem; asymmetric blossoms enclosing a falcon atop a hare; a large feline stalking a gazelle to either side of interlaced stemmed blossoms; three large blossoms with a bird with upturned head on the lower one; a hunter on horseback with a bow and arrow; a quatrefoil knot springing from a lotus blossom. Engraved on the inside of the bowl are two sturgeon swimming head to tail, one larger than the other, against a ring-punched ground.
The ring-punched ground itself testifies to the influence of Chinese ornamentation, brought westwards with the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century (this technique can also be seen in decoration of the Sogdian saddle cup, lot 85 in this sale). The lotus and peony blossoms can be found in various examples of Ilkhanid and Golden Horde metalwork (see, for example, a saddle cup sold in these rooms, 8 October 2014, lot 88). Clearly, the craftsman of this bowl was perfectly at ease handling the ornamental vocabulary of the Mongol and Islamic worlds, supporting a date of manufacture in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Indeed, by the second half of the thirteenth century, the regions of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia were all vassal states of the Ilkhanid Empire.
Two bowls now in The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg are closely comparable to the present bowl. One, with scalloped sides, shows similar engraved motifs, with the centre bearing a roundel chiselled with a vegetal pattern (inv. no.КУБ-1084; published in Piotrovskii 2000, p.222, no.46). The other has similar lobes decorated with animals and figures against a chiselled ground (ibid, p.224, no.54). An engraved cup attributed to Southern Russia, circa 1300 and now in the David Collection, Copenhagen (inv. no.48/1979), also displays a similar central roundel with an animal, in this case a duck, against a punched ground and split-palmettes, close in both style and technique to the current bowl.
The shape of the bowl, with lobed sides and an upper rim decorated with a frieze with vegetal scrolls, remained a form used all over Central Asia for centuries to come. The upper section of a seventeenth-century chalice, for example, probably made in Isfahan in the quarter of New Julfa for the Armenian market, shares a related lobed form, and is now in the Vank Museum in Isfahan, inv. no.83, published in Canby 2009, p.66, no.24.
Given the lack of handle, the bowl seems unlikely to have functioned as a saddle cup, but the high-quality production suggests this was an object intended for a high-ranking figure, and reserved for use on special occasions. The knotted motifs, scenes of the chase and twinned sturgeons might also allude to the idea of marriage and betrothal. Significant Armenian merchant communities are known to have existed in the key centres of Western Eurasia, and the presence of sturgeons in the decoration may refer to this region since the Sea of Azov, flowing into the Black Sea, was as plentiful in this fish as the Caspian during the medieval period.