© 1999 The Walters Art Gallery
© 1999 The Walters Art Gallery
Mid-4th c., Gold, enamel
From Tovsta Mohyla, near Ordzhonikidze, Dnipropetrovs'ka Oblast'.
Four hollow tubes of twisted gold are arranged in concentric arcs to form a crescent enclosing three registers. The tubes are graduated in size, with the largest on the outside, and at each end they are enclosed by a collar attached to a hinge. The collar is decorated with braiding, and with a row of filigree ovolo beneath a wider band of lotus and palmette. Above the hinge, braided wire is banded below with a border of acanthus scroll and above with lotus and palmette. Each terminal has the form of a lion head beneath a row of beading.
In the center of the lowest register three groups are worked in the round; each group comprises two griffins attacking a horse. On each side of these combats are two more: on the viewer's right, a leopard and a lion attack a boar; on the other side a lion and leopard bring down a slag. On each end the narrowing arcs are filled with a hound in pursuit of a hare; and, finally, in each corner, two insects.
The middle register consists of a gold plate, soldered in place. Worked in the round or in high relief are: a band of volute scroll emerging from an acanthus plant in the center; palmettes, rosettes, five birds, and blossoms, of which several still retain their blue enamel inlay.
In the center of the topmost register two kneeling men stitch a fleece between them. They have long hair to the shoulders, bare upper bodies, trousers, and shoes. In the field above them hangs a gorytos, another upon the twisted border beneath. On either side of them is a horse with a foal, one of them nursing. On the other side of the horses are a cow and its calf, one of them nursing. Next follows on each side a kneeling Scythian with a sheep, one of them milking, the other holding an amphora. Beside them are a goat with its young, and, in each corner, a bird.
Although the form of the pectoral may have originated in the Near East, this example is unique in its workmanship and subject matter. Distinctively Greek is the exquisite vegetal ornament of the middle register as well as the fine filigree technique and patterns of the collars and terminals. The pectoral was probably worked by a Greek goldsmith in a workshop in Pantikapaion, who created a variant on the traditional openwork technique by working the figures entirely in the round. The pectoral is certainly a commissioned piece, and thus reflects input from its Scythian owner; however, the emphasis on domesticity, fertility, and the small-scale animal life of the steppes is in stark contrast to the subjects more conventionally encountered on objects from Scythian burials. Also interesting is the emphasis on symmetry, surely a Greek contribution, and the ordering of the subject matter, which is less easy to attribute. The violent and mythic world of the outer register gives way on the inner frieze to the tranquil environment of Scythian daily life.