Friday, July 10, 2009

Golden Horde Architectural Fragment at the Met

Tympanum, late 14th–early 15th century; Golden Horde
Daghestan region, Caucasus (probably Kubachi)
Carved stone with traces of paint

H. 28 3/4 in. (73 cm), W. 51 in. (129.5 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1938 (38.96)

The vegetal decoration surrounding the central figure resembles that found on fourteenth- and fifteenth-century tombstones of the town of Kubachi, presently in the republic of Daghestan in the Caucasus. This attribution is supported by the "cloud" collar that covers the rider's chest, which became fashionable after the arrival of the Mongols in the area and was popular in the fifteenth century. The horseman represents a traditional image of a Central Asian nomadic archer, symbolic of the Mongol roots of the Golden Horde (1227–1502). In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, between the Ilkhanid and the Timurid periods, this dynasty ruled over a large area in Russia, including the province of Daghestan on the north shore of the Caspian Sea. The horseman and his mount provide valuable information about costume and trappings in the Caucasus at this time. A short, tight-fitting short-sleeved tunic is worn over another garment. Tight-fitting high boots, a belt, and a hood reaching to the neck complete the costume. A leather pouch hangs from the belt, as does a quiver of typically Turkic type.

This tympanum was once assembled on the front wall of the so-called House of Ahmed and Ibrahim at Kubachi, an important center under the control of the Golden Horde, which extended from the Lower Volga to the Caucasus on the northwestern shores of the Caspian Sea. It is not clear if the house was destroyed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The building that this object decorated must have been of a secular nature, perhaps the country house of a prince of the Golden Horde.

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