The Art and Culture of the Countries
of the Near and Middle East: 3rd-19th centuries

Second floor, rooms 383-397

Rooms 383-391 and 294. Persia, 3rd- 18th centuries. The Hermit-
age boasts the world's largest collection of Sassanian silver. The majority
of the Sassanian silverware-jugs and cups for wine, vases and salvers for
sweetmeats and fruit-were found by chance in the Urals region and
near the river Kama, a tributary of the Volga, to where they had been
taken by traders in return for furs. Thus, for example, among the
highlights of the Hermitage collection is a dish depicting King Shapur II
hunting, found in 1927 in the province of Kirov. Sassanian utensils
were generally decorated with relief representations of royal hunting
scenes, magnificent feasts, dances, and with the characters from ancient
Persian mythology. An example of this is the famous dish upon which is
represented a well-known episode from Firdousi's poem Shahnameh
describing how Azadeh, the beloved of Prince Bahram-Gur, demanded
upon seeing a herd of gazelles that with the help of arrows the prince
turn a buck into a doe and a doe into a buck. With a special crescent-
headed arrow the prince shot off a buck's antlers, thus turning him into
a doe; then he shot a doe, planting two arrows in the place where antlers
grow, thus turning her into a buck. In the hunting scenes the faces,
costumes and head-dresses of the Persian kings are reproduced with
absolute accuracy, and this makes it possible to establish their names. The
amazing ability to make the decorative compositions harmonize with the
actual shape of the object, the clarity of design and the exquisite execu-
tion of detail account for the noble beauty of the Sassanian articles.

Also displayed in this room is a very large collection of Persian carved
stones and coins.

Room 384. In Persia the manufacture of bronze goods was widely
developed. Varied in their shapes and their functions, they were produced
by casting and chasing, with subsequent red copper and silver incrusta-
tion. Excellent examples of this sort of work are a twelfth century censer
in the form of a cat, an aquamanile (1206) representing a female zebu
with a calf, and two twelfth century bronze pots made by craftsmen from
the town of Gerat.

Rooms 385-387. Persian ceramics, 12th-15th centuries. In the
East lustre ware from the northern Persian towns of Kashan and Rayy
was very highly esteemed, and there are in the exhibition examples of the
work produced in these towns-glazed tiles for facing secular and devo-
tional buildings. These include tiles dating from the thirteenth century
which decorated the Imam-zadeh Yakhyya mausoleum in the town of
Veramin, and a lustre mihrab, a prayer-niche facing Mecca in the wall of
a mosque or mausoleum, from Kashan (1305). The most splendid item
made by the Kashan craftsmen is a large lustre vase of the thirteenth
century with the figures, in relief, of musicians, animals and scenes from
a game of polo (room 387).

In rooms 391-394 there is a very rich collection of objects produced
by craftsmen of the sixteenth to eighteenth century; among these are
velvet and silk fabrics embroidered with gold and silver, carpets, copper
and bronze utensils, in many cases with the texts of poems by famous
Persian poets, ceramics from the towns of Kashan, Isfahan, Kerman and
Yezd, damask sabres and daggers adorned with gold inlay and incrusta-
tion, lacquers and articles made of coloured glass.

The items displayed in room 394 reflect the extensive trade con-
nections which Persia maintained with Russia and many European na-
tions. In room 392 are some miniatures of the Tabriz, Shiraz and Isfahan
schools; there are also some originals of the well-known seventeenth
century Persian artist Reza-i-Abbasi.

Room 388. Syria and Iraq, 13th- 15th centuries. Syria was famous
for its glassware with coloured enamel patterns, exported to many distant
places, and of interest in this respect is a thirteenth century glass vessel
in the form of a horn bearing Arabic inscriptions and the representations
of Christian saints. The sixteenth century German-made silver mount
was executed, as the inscription says, upon the order of a knight of the
Livonian Order, Bruno Drollshagen. Enjoying wide renown were the
bronze utensils produced by Syrian and Iraqi craftsmen who, by skilfully
applying in their ornamentation engraving, niello and incrustation,
could turn simple articles of everyday use into splendid works of art
(see, for example, the basins, dishes, candlesticks, etc.).

Rooms 389 and 390. Egypt, 7th-15th centuries. This exhibition
provides an introduction to the craft work of Mohammedan Egypt.
Notice especially a large collection of seventh to twelfth century fabrics,
two magnificent vessels made of rock crystal, some bronzes, glassware
and ceramics. The fourteenth century glass lamps (room 390) painted
with coloured enamels, and with the heraldic emblems and the names of
the rulers of the Mameluke dynasty, remind us of Syrian glassware. It is
known that after the conquest of the country by the Mamelukes, Syrian
glass-blowers were taken to Egypt. Some details of thirteenth to fifteenth
century architectural ornamentation are very striking-carved wooden
panels for interior decoration, inlaid with ivory and valuable kinds of
wood, and bearing a typical geometric design.

Rooms 395-397. Turkey, 15th-18th centuries. As a result of
conquests the Ottoman Sultanate became, in the fifteenth century, one
of the world's most powerful states. In the centre of one of the rooms is
exhibited a remarkable suit of armour belonging to a Turkish cavalry
soldier of the fifteenth century. In cabinet 2 is the head-dress of a Janis-
sary, the Janissaries constituting a special corps of the Turkish regular
army in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

The collection of Turkish applied art is exceptionally rich. Rooms
395 and 396 contain sixteenth and seventeenth century ceramics from the
towns of Iznik in Asia Minor and Damascus in Syria, prominent centres
of the ceramic industry. Eighteenth and early nineteenth century cera-
mics from the town of Kiitahya are displayed in room 397. The towns
of Bursa, Damascus and Scutari were renowned for their brocade, velvets
and silk fabrics (see rooms 395-397). Carpets were manufactured
everywhere, in Kula, Bergama, Ladik and Chiordes; the finest of the
carpets in the Hermitage was made in the town of Usak (room 396,
frame 15). The favourite decorative motif, adorning ceramics, fabrics
and carpets alike, is the representation of flowers-carnations, tulips,
hyacinths, wild roses-and of pomegranates. In rooms 396 and 397
there is an enormous collection of richly ornamented weapons made by
craftsmen in Istanbul, Trebizond and Erzurum.






The Art and Culture of the Peoples of Central Asia
The Art and Culture of the Peoples of the Caucasus
The Art and Culture of Egypt
The Art and Culture of Babylon Assyria and Neighbouring Countries
The Art and Culture of Byzantium
The Art and Culture of the Countries of the Near and Middle East
The Art and Culture of India
The Art and Culture of China
The Art and Culture of Mongolia
The Art and Culture of Japan
The Art and Culture of Indonesia

- The Hermitage - The History of the Museum -
- The Hermitage - The Department of Russian Culture -
- The Hermitage - The Department of Prehistoric Culture -
- The Hermitage - The Department of the Art and Culture of the Peoples of the East -
- The Hermitage - The Department of the Art and Culture of Antiquity -
- The Hermitage - The Department of Western European Art -
- The Hermitage - The Numismatic Department -
- Floor Pans -