Repoussé Scythian Disk

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Repoussé Scythian Disk

9th-7th Century B.C.,
Scythian
Bronze
Diam.: 19 cm

£18,000

Description

A circular bronze disc depicting a stylised horned animal in repoussé technique. The body is curved and tapers in dramatically at the midriff, with four slender legs, each bearing three pronounced claws, extending in a dynamic pose. A long, thin curled tail rises above the back of the beast, filling the upper space of the disc. Eight evenly spaced raised rivulets (one missing) adorn the outer circumference of the disc. The bronze surface now exhibits a pleasing green patina.

The Scythian people were a group of Nomadic Iranian and Eurasian tribes who roamed the plains of Central Asia around the Black Sea and Eurasian Steppe. Little is known of them as they left behind no traces of a written record and as a nomadic civilization, no evidence of permanent settlements from which to help understand their everyday lives. However archaeological teams have found several intact grave deposits of noble warriors who were buried with their horses and most treasured possessions, including bronze items. These burial mounds (kurgans) have provided insights into their society. Frozen bodies from burial sites were all found to be heavily tattooed, across their arms, legs, and upper torsos. The tattoos featured fantastic animals locked in combats, as well as rows of birds and simple dots. The stylised manner in which these beasts were drawn is very similar to that found on this disc; a fragment of mummified skin in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, shows a beast with the same triad of extended claws on each foot, and long curled tail above the back. As equestrian nomads, the Scythians spent most of their lives on horseback – they invented the saddle in the 7th Century B.C.. This disc may have been a phalera on a horse harness. Russian archaeologist Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko led four large excavations at Pazyryk, northeastern Siberia, between 1947 and 1949, and discovered that the chiefs there adorned their horse trappings and harnesses with elaborate stylised animal art.

The Scythians played an important part in the vast trade network connecting Greece, Persia, India, and China, known as the Silk Road. Scythian groups inhabited lands reaching from the Hungarian plain to the Gansu province of China, and depended on their sedentary neighbours for a range of goods. For instance, settled metalworkers produced portable decorative objects to trade to the Scythians. The demand generated by the Scythians encouraged merchants to travel long distances across Central Asia in search of new markets for their goods. Trade between various Scythian groups across the steppe then helped to move these goods from east to west. As the majority of Scythians lived in lands north of the Silk Road trade routes, they were not the direct beneficiaries of the trade but did use their position to organize many raids on trading caravans and collect tolls. Some Scythians traded with the merchants, extending the reach of their products into Western Germany and Central China.
 

Provenance

Previously in the Private Collection of the Marquis de Chasseloup-Laubat, most likely acquired by one of the three main collectors: François de Chasseloup-Laubat (1754-1833), Prosper de Chasseloup-Laubat (1805-1873), or Louis de Chasseloup-Laubat (1863-1954), prior to 1939 (photographed in the album of the family art collection, created between 1918 and 1939).
Thence by descent, France.
ALR: S00240642, with IADAA Certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database.
 

Note on the Provenance

François de Chasseloup-Laubat (1754-1833) was born at Saint-Sornin to a noble family, and joined the French engineers in 1774. When the Revolution broke out in 1781, he was still a subaltern, but was promoted to captain in 1791. His skills were recognised in the campaigns of 1792 and 1793, and he was promoted to chef de battaillon and then colonel in the following year. Chasseloup-Laubat was chief of engineers at the siege of Mainz in 1793, before being sent to Italy to work in the advance of Napoleon Bonaparte’s army. Due to his successes in Italy, he was made general of division, and was chosen by Napoleon as engineer general in 1800. In the peacetime between 1801 and 1805, Chasseloup-Laubat worked to reconstruct the defences of northern Italy, including the great fortress of Alessandria on the Tanaro. Napoleon again called him to serve in the Grande Armée in the Polish Campaign in 1806-1807. Chasseloup-Laubat reconstructed many of the fortresses in Germany during Napoleon’s occupation of the region. In 1810 he was made a councillor of state. He retired after the 1812 Russian campaign, but did occasionally work in the inspection and construction of fortifications. Louis XVII made him a peer of France and a knight of St Louis, as well as a marquis. Chasseloup-Laubat spent his final years organising his collection of manuscripts, until his eyesight began to fail. He married Anne-Julie Fresneau de La Gataudière, through whom he acquired the Château de la Gataudière at Marennes, Charente-Maritime.

Their youngest son, Prosper de Chasseloup-Laubat (1805-1873) inherited the title of marquis after his elder brother, Justin, died in 1847. His godparents were Emperor Napoleon I and Empress Josephine. He was educated at Lycée Louis-le-Grand before becoming a civil servant. From 1828, he used his father’s connections to gain a position working for the Conseil d’État. Following the July Revolution of 1830, Chasseloup-Laubat became aide-de-camp of the commander of the National Guard, Marquis de La Fayette. He continued working at the Conseil d’État despite the regime change, and was even promoted. In 1836, he worked as an assistant to Jean-Jacques Baude, Royal commissary in Algeria, for whom he worked at Alger, Tunis, Bône, and Constantine. He returned to France after the failed siege of Constantine in November 1836, and was appointed a councillor at the Conseiller d’État in 1838. He also began his political career at this time, and was elected deputy of Charente-Inférieure (the department in which the Château de la Gataudière was located), and was reelected in 1839, 1842, and 1846. He was also a member and later presid the Château de la Gataudière of the departmental council of the Charente-Inférieure.

Despite the Revolution of 1848, he was again elected as deputy for the department in 1849, and he voted with the Conservatives of the Party of Order during the Second Republic. He also served briefly as Minister of Marine under President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. After the coup d’état of December 1851, he was appointed to the consultative commission replacing the Chambre des Députés, and reelected to the government in Charente-Inférieure. An enthusiastic supporter of the French imperial project, he campaigned for the restoration of the Empire, which was approved by referendum in November 1852. He was made a minister in 1859, and appointed a Senator of the Empire in 1862. He retained this position until the fall of the Empire in 1870, making him a key figure of French early colonial expansion. Chasseloup-Labat was Minister at the time of the French conquest of Vietnam, and threatened to resign if Napoleon III agreed to return captured territories in exchange for a French protectorate over the whole of the country. It was during his time in Vietnam that Chasseloup-Labat began to collect objects of art and archaeology.

Along with his wife, Marie-Louise Pilié, he was a key figure in the elaborate social life of the Second Empire, during the period known as the fête impériale. On 13 February 1866, he hosted one of the most flamboyant receptions: a masquerade ball in which he dressed as a Venetian noble to receive his 3,000 guests (including the Emperor and the Empress) in the restored salons of the ministry on the Rue Royale. The reception continued until half past six in the morning, and featured a ‘Cortege of the Nations’, as a symbolic expressions of the host’s political stance and the country’s imperial aspirations.

In 1869, Chasseloup-Laubat was recalled to government, and worked on the constitutional changes to transform the country into a parliamentary monarchy. He was not, however, restored to his position in the new cabinet formed in 1870. The marquis was also President of the Société de géographie from 1864 until his death. He died in 1873 and is buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Their eldest son, Louis de Chasseloup-Laubat (1863-1954), 5th Marquis of Chasseloup-Laubat, was an engineer who specialised in ship design. He expanded the family collection during his travels across Asia, especially in Japan. He was also president of the French Fencing Federation and co-wrote the rules for international fencing competitions.

Louis’ son, François, inherited his father’s interest in travel and archaeology, becoming a recognised explorer. He travelled extensively across Asia, and was on the first journey to the centre of English Malaya, from which he brought back unpublished documents on the still unknown tribes of the Sakai. He spent several years in French Indochina and China, where he compared archaeological finds with those of his friend, Father Theillard de Chardin. He also travelled to Japan and Korea.

His sister Magdeleine and her husband Achille, Prince Murat, also contributed to the collection, during their world tour through America and Asia in 1926 and 1927.