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Tamara Talbot Rice
ANCIENT ARTS OF
Sakae/Sarmatian belt buckle showing a warrior sleeping under a tree
Larger images of both Sakae/Sarmatian belt buckles showing a warrior sleeping under a tree, State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
Illustration 28, p36 in Tamara Talbot Rice, Ancient Arts of Central Asia, 1965
28 B-Shaped belt buckle: man asleep beneath a tree with horses and two people. One of a pair. Gold. Sarmatian, first century BC-first century AD.
Photo: State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad
28 One half of a gold, B-shaped, Siberian belt buckle.
It shows a warrior sleeping under a tree with his head resting on a woman’s lap; his gorytus hangs from the tree and an attendant holds the couple’s horses.
Compare the woman’s dress to that worn by the Great Goddess (Ill. 30).
First century BC-first Century AD
Referenced as cat. no. 95 in "From the Lands of Scythians: Ancient Treasures from the Museums of the U.S.S.R., 3000 B.C.–100 B.C.": The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 32, no. 5 (1973–1974) Piotrovsky, Boris (1973–1974)
Human figures are rare enough in the nomads’ art to make this plaque worthy of special notice, but its subject is of extraordinary interest in the history of world literature.
The warrior lying under a tree with his head in a woman’s lap is a motif still living in a Hungarian folk ballad (the Hungarians are ethnically and linguistically descendants of steppe nomads that came to Central Europe in the early Middle Ages),
but also featured in the 10th-century German heroic epic Waltharius, in Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (about 1200),
and in the Arthurian story of Sir Balin and Sir Balan (mid-13th century).
It is of special interest that in the three latter stories this motif is connected with a hero distinguished by carrying two swords.
This plaque is one of a pair (its companion piece, a mirror image, is not in this exhibition):
they were probably made for a pair of matching swords to be worn by a warrior on either hip-which is specifically described in Waltharius as a Hunnish custom.
Warrior resting (probably a scene from a legend), plaque. Gold, length 16.2 cm. (6⅜ in.).
Siberian collection of Peter I. Hermitage, Si 1727, 1/161.
Rudenko, Sibirskaya kollektsiya, pl. VII, 1.
Back to Siberian gold and bronze belt buckles & plaques, an extract from ANCIENT ARTS OF CENTRAL ASIA by Tamara Talbot Rice