This brilliant ornament is an example of the exquisite portable art that is such a hallmark of Scythian culture. Fashioned from shimmering gold, this advancing feline exemplifies the nomadic life of the Scythian people of Eurasia. The Scythians, famous for being formidable warriors, were also skilful artisans whose artworks were created to decorate their costumes and to embellish their horses. As a people constantly on the move, it is not surprising that they found inspiration in the natural world and that so much of their art depicts the animals that were such an integral component of their everyday lives, whether realistically or in a highly-stylized fashion.
The animal depicted, although in many ways abstract in its use of geometric forms, reveals a certain attempt at a realistic depiction, evidenced particularly in the delineation of the paws and the sinuous curves, the haunches pronounced as the creature turns its head to look back, perhaps distracted by the movement of prey. The use of felines, alongside stags and birds, was foremost in Scythian art. These fierce creatures were not only symbolic of the Scythian connection with nature, but may also have been used as apotropaic devices when worn by men and women and placed on horse trappings and other objects used in combat.
E.C. Bunker, C.B. Chatwin, and A. Farkas, ‘Animal Style’ Art from East to West (New York, 1970).
E.D. Reeder, ed., Scythian Gold. Treasures From Ancient Ukraine (New York, 1999).
Private Collection, Europe, 1980s.
Published: Pierre Bergé, Paris, 29 May 2013, lot 178.