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Epic Mural, East Wall, Amazon Hall, Piandjikent
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

A larger image of the left of the Amazon Epic, East Wall, Sector XXI, Room 1. Sogdian Piandjikent. The right of the Amazon Epic, East Wall, Sector XXI, Room 1. Sogdian Piandjikent. The far right of the Amazon Epic, East Wall, Sector XXI, Room 1. Sogdian Piandjikent.

Painting with glue paints on dry loess plaster
c. 740
Penjikent. Sector XXI, room 1
Accession: 1964
State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Cats 125–27 come from the main room of one of ancient Panjakent’s largest residential buildings, where the paintings were arranged in three tiers. The low first tier (50 cm high) was divided into rectangular sections of different sizes showing scenes from tales and fables (Cats 126–27), bearing no relationship to the main scenes in the second tier, which Alexander Belenitsky gave the tentative title ‘Battle with Amazons’. The subject of the second tier would seem to be based on some literary or pseudo-historical text, although no precise source has been identified.

The surviving paintings with ‘Amazons’ come from the second tier on the eastern, southern and western walls, and a small fragment from the northern wall also survives. A doorway in the southern wall of the room separated the scheme into eastern and western parts.

Eastern part: To right of the entrance, with the narrative running from left to right.

Here we see a battle between several riders, although it is not quite clear who is fighting whom, since only the lower half of the figures survive. The horses gallop above the ground, their hooves not touching the earth. Lying beneath their hooves are five figures, one of them a woman whose costume and weaponry is identical to that of the men: only the two long plaits of black hair reveal her sex. From the colour and ornament on the kaftan worn by both rider and fallen ‘Amazon’ it is clear that they are one and the same person, shown during and after battle.

The rider in a black kaftan (probably once red, its colour changed with time) on a yellow horse appears three times in the eastern wall paintings, suggesting that he is their main hero. Twice he is shown moving from left to right, indicating the direction of the narrative.

The horses’ bodies partly overlap, creating an illusion of deep space and giving a sense of the scale of the battle. We barely notice that the artist repeated the same flying gallop pose for the horses at least six times.

Source: “Battle with Amazons (eastern and western parts),” Telling the Sogdian Story: A Freer|Sackler Digital Exhibition Project, accessed December 7, 2020

Continued in Epic & Fables Mural, West Wall, Amazon Hall, Sector XXI, Room 1. Sogdian Piandjikent (Penjikent). State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

More Illustrations of Sogdian murals from Panjakent (Panjīkant), 6th-8th Centuries