Plate Decorated with a Horse from Sludka


Several vessels were found near the village of Sludka (Слудка) in the Permskii County (Пермский Уезд), of the Perm Governorate (Пермская Губерния) of the Russian Empire in the 18th and 19th century. Sludka is located on the tip of a peninsula jutting into the 12.5 km-wide confluence of the Kama and Obva rivers. The Stroganov family owned this land when the vessels were discovered, and thus, all of them moved through the family’s art collection. 

The first recorded find, designated Sludka I, was a pitcher decorated with dancing women in 1750. A plowman from Sludka hit the vessel while tilling a field (Köhler 1853, 42). Alexander S. Stroganov received word of the find on his family’s land in 1753 and requested that the ewer be brought to Paris for study (Marshak 2000, 101, fn. 2). In Paris scientific illustrator Élisabeth Haussard etched the piece for its first publication by Charles de Brosses (de Brosses 1755/1764; 777). The vessel was still with Alexander Stroganov in Paris in 1775 but soon after lost or destroyed with the French Revolution (Smirnov 1909, 14, T XLI № 79).

Five more vessels were found near Sludka, designated Sludka II, in the sand on the shore of the Kama River. In 1780 children found the first plate, one decorated with the Greek story of the argument between Ajax and Odysseus over Achilles’ armor (Köhler 1853, 44). Soon thereafter (1780 or 1781) this horse plate, a goat plate, an Arabic inscribed plate, and a lobed bowl with dancers were found (Köhler 1853, 45-48). The Stroganovs purchased all of the vessels from the parents of the children who found them (Marshak 2000, 103). These five vessels were kept with the Stroganov collection in Saint Petersburg until the Stroganov palace was seized during the Revolution. All five vessels were then transferred to the State Hermitage Museum in 1925, where they still reside. This plate has the number ω-280.

Two more vessels were found around the village of Sludka in the 1870s, designated Sludka III. Grigorii S. Stroganov purchased a plate decorated with a woman feeding a snake from a local in 1873 and a plate with a cross sometime in the 1870s. He took the plates to Rome where they were housed in his Palazzo Stroganoff. His daughter, Mariia Shcherbatova, then gifted the plates to the Imperial Hermitage Museum in 1911 after her father’s death in 1910. Both plates are still housed in the renamed State Hermitage Museum.

Sludka is presently a village in the Il’inskii District (Ильинский Район), Perm Province/Krai (Пермский Край), Russian Federation.

Inscription & Other Marking Notes

Five control stamps– monograms and busts– on the base of the vessel, within the footring. The stamps date the vessel to the early reign of Justinian I (527-565) (Dodd 1961, 66). Some of the stamps are hammered showing that the stamps were pressed before the imagery was created (Matsulevich 1929, 115). 

Anthropomorphic and zoic imagery was later carved into the front and back of the plate (Leshchenko 1976, 176-180). Seven standing figures wear crenulated headgear and lift bladed weapons in their hands on the inside of the plate. Five of the figures stand on the roundel above the horse and a sixth of the same size is isolated on the left of the plate. Between them are four forms, three with clear faces, and two of those with wings. A larger figure is positioned on top of the horse in the central roundel with the head lifting out of the roundel. Under the horse are two fish. On the back of the plate are seven repeated forms. Vasilii Leshchenko interprets these forms as profile faces (Leshchenko 1976, 177).

Technical Notes

silver with gilding / 40.5 cm diameter / 1623 grams

Major Eurasian Silver Publications

*Mentioned in an itemized list in K. V. Trever and V. G. Lukonin, Sasanidskoe serebro: sobranie Gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha: khudozhestvenniia kul’tura Irana III-VIII vekov (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1987), 122; discussed in the chapter by Vasilii Leshchenko, “Ispol’zovanie vostochnogo serebra na Urale,” within V. P. Darkevich, Khudozhestvennyi metall Vostoka VIII-XIII vv.: proizvedeniia vostochnoi torevtiki na territorii evropeiskoi chasti SSSR i Zaural’ia (Moscow: Nauka, 1976).

Additional Bibliography

Bank, Alice V. Byzantine Art in the Collections of Soviet Museums. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1977.

Dodd, Erica Cruikshank. Byzantine Silver Stamps. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1961. 

von Köhler, Heinrich Karl Ernst. “Über die Denkmäler der Altertums aus Silber in der Sammlung des Herrn Grafen von Stroganow.” H. K. E. Köhler’s Gesammelte Schriften, edited by Ludolf Stephani, 41-53. Volume 6. Saint Petersburg: Druckerei der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1853 (reprint from the Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeigen, 1803).

Leshchenko, V. Iu. “Ispol’zovanie vostochnogo serebra na Urale.” In Khudozhestvennyi metall Vostoka VIII-XIII vv.: proizvedeniia vostochnoi torevtiki na territorii evropeiskoi chasti SSSR i Zaural’ia, by V. P. Darkevich, 176-188. Moscow: Nauka, 1976.

Matsulevich (Matzulewitsch), Leonid. Byzantinische Antike: Studien auf Grund der Silbergefässe der Ermitage. Berlin; Leipzig: W. de Gruyter & Co., 1929.

Otchet Imperatorskoi Arkheologicheskoi komissii za 1874 god. Saint Petersburg, 1877.

Image Credits

Featured Image

Alice V. Bank, Byzantine Art in the Collections of Soviet Museums (New York: H. N. Abrams, 1977), № 74.

Page Images

(1) State Hermitage Museum Website

(2) Erica Cruikshank Dodd, Byzantine Silver Stamps (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1961), № 7.

(3-4) V. Iu. Leshchenko, “Ispol’zovanie vostochnogo serebra na Urale,” in Khudozhestvennyi metall Vostoka VIII-XIII vv.: proizvedeniia vostochnoi torevtiki na territorii evropeiskoi chasti SSSR i Zaural’ia, by V. P. Darkevich, 176-188 (Moscow: Nauka, 1976), ris. 20.