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Art from the Land of Timur

A private collection of rare medieval Central Asian art in Scotland

January 8, 2013 – January 13, 2013
Entrance free

Bonhams Edinburgh, 22 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JX, Scotland

This astonishingly realistic bronze sculpture of a resting hunting dog is just 4.7cm from nose to tail, It was made in the 11th or 12th centuries in the Semirechiye region of Central Asia, and is part of an exhibition of medieval Central Asian art from a private collection in Scotland at Bonhams in Edinburgh.

For the Turkic dynasties of Central Asia the hunting dog was a symbol of the royal chase and was frequently shown in works of art. But if representations were frequent in metal and ceramics, and sometimes in miniatures and wall-paintings, they are extremely rare as sculptures. The image of a hunting dog was particularly popular in the art of the Qarakhanid dynasty, and many examples of Qarakhanid embossed work as well as formal wall-paintings depict hunting or animal chase scenes. In the recently discovered frescos in the palace of a Qarakhanid ruler at Afrasiab two hunting dogs are depicted which are remarkably similar to the Semirechye example (Karev 2007). There is one other sculpture of a hunting dog known, almost identical, except that is made of jade (Nagel, Asian Art, Stuttgart, 10 May 2012, lot 1060).

The words ‘Khaqan Most Illustrious, Lord Victorious Triumphant, Buttress of the State and Righteousness of the Religious Community, Toghrul Qarākhāqān Friend of the Amir of True Believers’ are incised in niello around the rim of the wonderfully austere silver goblet below, reportedly from the Lake Issyk-Kul basin. Very few silver artefacts bear the title and name of a ruler. Coins minted during the reign of the Imād al-Daula Toghrul Qarākhāqān (or Karakhan) allow scholars to date the goblet to between 1059 and 1074.

For just six days, Bonhams in Edinburgh are exhibiting this and other fascinating Central Asian treasures from a private collection in Scotland. With THY flying from Istanbul to Edinburgh four days a week, it’s time to make a dash to the Scottish capital. On January 18, a major exhibition on the Vikings opens at the Royal Scottish Museum. And a little-known Turner of Ayasofya is among the collection of his watercolours on show at the Scottish National Gallery – according to the terms of the bequest, it is only allowed to be exhibited in the month of January for reasons of conservation.

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