A group of open-work bronze buckles dated back to the 1st -3rd centuries, revealing some peculiarities of Georgian metalworking in Late Antique period. The discussed material represents development of plastic art originated on local soil. Pictorial language of these works reflects well-established artistic unity based on complex formal language combining three-dimensional and graphical tasks.
Bronze open-work buckles have been discovered both in east and west Georgia. It that discovery of buckles in highland Racha, Imereti, Shida (Inner) Kartli and Trialeti is not accidental as these regions were the earliest and strongest centres of metallurgy. The compositions of these buckles share the same artistic scheme. Being rectangular in shape, they are enclosed with an ornamented frame with each corner emphasized by a knob of different heights. The inside of the frame has a relief composition featuring zoomorphic figures, the artistic and conceptual centre of which is a stylized representation of a deer, a horse, and rarely an ox or an imaginary animal. The number of small figures, surrounding the central image, ranges from one to seven. Stretching horizontally, the bodies of the central animals are always shown in profile and mostly turned to the right. The smooth surfaces of strongly stylized figures are graphically emphasized by means of concentric circles, herring-bone or parallel notches. The frame ornamentation is mainly of three types: twisted, plaited and spiral. Vegetal ornaments never appear in the motifs featured.
Buckles were cast by using a ‘cire perdue’ technique, which allowed improvisation. Thanks to the use of this technique every buckle is marked with a distinctive artistic rendering.
The peculiarities of Georgian open-work bronze buckles are clearly shown in compare with the pieces of metalwork belonging to the cultural heritage of Luristan, Scythian and partly Parthian societies. Their art is renowned for the tradition of manufacturing open-work objects. Although there is a great time gap between these cultures and that of the bronze buckles of Georgia, this material will help us reveal the characteristics of Georgian artifacts under discussion. The plastic rendering of Luristan open-work objects is characterized by schematic, two-dimensional, coarse modeling and stylized, laconically presented smooth surfaces demonstrating a trend towards decorativeness. A wide spectrum of diverse imaginary zoomorphic images of Luristan bronze works radically differ from plastic images featured on Georgian buckles. Apart from differences, it is possible to notice various similarities in the depiction of some of the bodies of animals, which point to a common artistic concept, such as rendering of animal horns, tails and limbs with ‘cylinder-shaped’ design.
The earliest Scythian open-work objects date from the 6th century BC and are no more in evidence beginning from the turn of the millennium. Scythian works are distinguished by dynamic and expressive compositions of animal battles, in which figures are characterized by complex structures and are shown from different foreshortenings.
Although created at different periods, these bronze open-work buckles and the Luristan, Parthian and Scythian metalwork artifacts make a single artistic unity revealing the individuality of the plastic rendering and compositional solution of each culture within which they were created.
Being an inseparable part of Near East, Georgia (Colchis and Iberia) was integrated into the life of the leading cultural centres of the time, and this left its mark on the country’s material culture. Despite strong cultural influences of Ancient tradition at the time, which are best seen in the works then owned by aristocracy at the time, it is obvious that Georgia maintained close ties with the outside world. Thus, the close interralations between Near Eastern and Scythian artistic world are evidently revealed. In the early centuries of the new millennium, the connections became apparent in the forms and artistic concepts redeveloped under the influence of the Georgian artistic tradition.