Dish from Bol' she Anikovskoe; Dish with the Siege of Jericho and Joshua conquests

This silver dish illustrates several scenes from the Book of Joshua, the sixth book in the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible. At the bottom of the plate, there is the fortified city of Jericho, with a woman identified as the prostitute Rahab looking out of the window (Joshua II and VI). At the center of the plate, above the distinctive fortifications, seven priests blowing ram’s horn trumpets flank a central figure carrying the Ark of the Covenant. (Joshua VI:6). The top of the plate features what has been identified as the taking of a city of Canaan. The central figure on the battlements is identifiable by the sun and moon above (Hermitage 2014, cat. 138). According to Joshua X:12-13: “Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day” (King James Bible). While this plate evidently depicts Christian (or Jewish) imagery, it also resembles the Buddhist depiction of Kushinagar, the city that housed the relics of the Buddha after his death (Wilken 2012). The specific scenes on the dish seem to have been based on an earlier plate. The main decoration in relief, particularly the castle, is characteristic of the eighth century CE. The initial composition is characteristic of a Sogdian craftsman in the Qarluq dominions (Sims 2002, 293-294, cat. 211). However, the battle dress of the warriors illustrates a combination of Sogdian and Turkic elements, which points to a ninth or tenth century CE style, a craftsman working after the Arab occupation of Sogdiana in 722 CE (Gillman and Klimkeit 1991, 214-15, and Sims 2002, 294). The dish is therefore a ninth or tenth century artifact, based on an eighth century object, which was in turn based on an early biblical text. This continuum of representation and influence illustrates the crossroads effect that permeates Sogdian art and material culture, in which multiple themes and stories from earlier or contemporary cultures often recur in novel formats. The chance find of a similar plate in northern Siberia has added credence to Marshak’s theory that this design was replicated from an earlier piece, indicating this specific iconography was spread to at least two distinct places.

Bibliography

Bijl, Arnoud, and Birgit Boelens. 2014. Expedition Silk Road: Journey to the West: Treasures from the Hermitage. Amsterdam: Hermitage Amsterdam.

Gillman, Ian, and Hans-Joachim Klimkeit. 1999. Christians in Asia Before 1500. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Marshak, Boris. 1986. Silberschätze des Orients: Metallkunst des 3.-13. Jahrhunderts und ihre Kontinuität. Leipzig: E.A. Seemann.

Sims, Eleanor, Ernst J. Grube, and Boris I. Maršak. 2002. Peerless Images: Persian Painting and Its Sources. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Wilken, Robert Louis. 2012. The First Thousand Years A Global History of Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press. Accessed May 3, 2016. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10629463.

"Book of Joshua." King James Bible. Accessed May 5, 2016. http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Joshua-Chapter-6/#12.

Metadata

Date

9th-10th century

Coverage

Sogdiana

Format

Dish

Dimensions

23.3 cm d

Materials

Cast, engraved and gilded silver

Location

Inv. SA–12758

State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Additional Research Metadata

Description

The scene on the dish derives from the Book of Joshua in the Bible and the episodes should be read from bottom up. In the lower part is the Siege of Jericho with the harlot Rahab looking out of the window (Joshua ii and vi); above is the carrying of the Ark of the Covenant with priests blowing trumpets (Joshua vi:6); higher up are the taking of a city of Canaan and lastly Joshua himself stopping the sun and the moon (Joshua x:12–13).
One of the masterpieces of the Hermitage collection, this dish was made in the 9th to 10th century in a Sogdian Christian environment, possibly in the Semirechye (now south-east Kazakhstan and northern Kyrgyzstan), using a cast taken from an 8th-century dish. The castle is a typical Sogdian 8th-century structure but engraved details in the composition such as the weaponry and the headgear worn by the riders
reflect 9th- and 10th-century reality. It was this that first led Boris Marshak to suggest that the dish reproduced an earlier piece, a hypothesis that was recently confirmed in striking fashion with the find, near the village of Verkhnee Nildino in northern Siberia, of a cast dish almost identical to that from Anikova.

Provenance

1909 chance find near the village of Anikova, Perm Province; Presumably from the Nestorian Milieu in 9-10th cent. SemirechÕe; Uzbekistan/Tajikistan

Sources

Marshak 1986, 85, figs. 209–11

Citation

“Dish from Bol' she Anikovskoe; Dish with the Siege of Jericho and Joshua conquests,” Telling the Sogdian Story , accessed September 25, 2017, http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/items/show/137.