Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Belt buckle with paired felines attacking ibexes

ca. 3rd–2nd century B.C.
Mongolia or southern Siberia
2.62 x 3.12 in. (6.65 x 7.92 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 404
During the first millennium B.C., many horse-riding nomadic tribes controlled the vast Eurasian steppes to the north of the Black and Caspian seas. Some of the nomadic groups—particularly Scythian tribes that lived in the plains north of the Black Sea—were described by the Greek historian Herodotus in his Histories. But we also know about them from their burial mounds, which contained sumptuous golden objects made in a variety of styles that reflect contacts with Greece, Persia, and China.

Following earlier Scythian migrations, Sarmatian tribes moved in the fourth century B.C. from the area north of the Caspian Sea into the Caucasus and Europe. Sarmatian animal-style art is distinguished by complex compositions in which stylized animals are depicted twisted or turned back upon themselves or in combat with other animals. Plaques, clasps, and weapons were frequently made of precious metals and embellished with polychrome inlays of stone and glass, many of which find stylistic parallels in the East.

This cast buckle depicts a heraldic composition with two felines biting the necks of two ibexes whose legs are folded beneath them. Although symmetrical confronted animals suggest a Scythian background, this plaque is surely later and also reflects an artistic environment much farther east.
Acquired by the Museum in 1917, gift of J. Pierpont Morgan.

“’Animal Style’ Art from East to West,” Asia House Gallery, New York, The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia, de Young Museum, San Francisco, 1970.

“The Golden Deer of Eurasia,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Palazzo Reale, Milan, 2000–2001.

“Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes: The Eugene V. Thaw and Other New York Collections,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 1, 2002–January 3, 2003.

Rostovtzeff, Michael. 1929. The Animal Style in South Russia and China. Princeton NJ: Princeton Monographs, p. 92, pl. XXIX:2.

Rostovtzeff, Michael. 1929. Le Centre de l'Asie, la Russie, la Chine et le Style Animal. Prague: Seminarum Kondakovianum, p. 36, pl. IV:16.

Dimand, Maurice S. and H.E. McAllister. 1944. Near Eastern Jewelry, A Picture Book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 3.

Okladnikov, Alexey P. 1946. "New Scythian Find on the Upper Lena." Sovetskaya Arkheologiya 8, pp. 287-288, fig. 2.

Bunker, Emma C., Bruce C. Chatwin and Ann R. Farkas. 1970. "Animal Style" Art from East to West. New York: Asia Society, no. 118.

McConnell, Sophie. 1991. Metropolitan Jewelry. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 91.

McKay, John, ed. 1999. A History of World Societies, Complete Fourth and Fifth Editions. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Aruz, Joan and Ann Farkas, Andrei Alekseev, and Elena Korolkova, eds. 2000. The Golden Deer of Eurasia: Scythian and Sarmatian Treasures from the Russian Steppes, exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 3.

Bunker, Emma C. 2002. Nomadic Art of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes: The Eugene V. Thaw and Other New York Collections. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 106, no. 74.
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