The Jack Daulton Collection
Antique & Ethnographic Art

silk textile fragment with Sassanian goose motif,

Central Asia


textile fragment with Sassanian goose motif

Central Asia

age unknown, probably 7th-9th century

woven silk

34 x 46 cm

The quintessential Silk Road artifact, this silk textile fragment, probably from a Chinese or Sogdian burial of a person of high rank, is decorated with a goose motif that is Sassanian (pre-Islamic Persian) in origin.  Although Sassanian political control did not reach beyond the Pamir Mountains in Central Asia, the cultural influence of the Sassanian Empire (AD 224-651) extended far into East Asia.  Sassanian goods, including silver, glass, brocades, and other items, decorated with Sassanian motifs, were carried east, and traded, along the ancient Silk Road.  Sassanian motifs were then often adopted by Chinese craftsmen as ornamentation in wall painting, silk weaving, and other local industries. 


One example is the Sassanian motif of the goose or duck carrying a string of beads, a jeweled pendant, a garland, or a sash in its beak.  This motif appeared in the wall paintings at Kizil, a Buddhist cave temple complex, dating from the 3rd to 8th centuries, along the caravan route skirting the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang Province, China.  See the example below in the Museum of Indian Art, Berlin.  The motif also appeared in Chinese silk textiles, where it was known as zeniao, or the "gnawing bird" pattern. and was restricted to the garments of high-ranking court officials.


See Christie's London, Sale 5708, Art of the Islamic and Indian Worlds, 4 October 2012, Lot 54, for a virtually identical motif on a silk robe of the 8th century.

Here is a photograph of the Christie's robe:
Compare also

frieze with Sassanian duck motif

wall painting fragment

from Cave 60, Kizil

Xinjiang Province, China

6th-7th centuries

Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin

Here is a photograph of the wall painting fragment:
detail 1 of silk textile fragment in The Daulton Collection:
Jack Daulton
The Daulton Collection
Los Altos Hills, California