From the beginning of this month until September 5th the Hermitage Amsterdam offers an exclusive chance for visitors to see, for the first time outside Russia, over 250 objects of long-lost civilizations; from Iranians in Sogdia to Hellenistic Greeks, valuable materials were exchanged between peoples from Central Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe through this gigantic trading network called the Silk Road.
This unique exhibition shows us how the world as early as in the seventh century was a great melting pot, where Hindu art and Greek art would mix to form beautiful patterned pots and figures resembling Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine, would be exchanged for fur by Iranians in India. These pieces of art display an antique form of interconnectedness as well as a degree of openness of ancient cultures, not only to art, but also ideas, philosophies, knowledge and religion.
You can easily lose yourself among so many distinctive pieces that give a truly amazing view on the lifestyle and ways of travelers who would cross many towns to exchange their products; connecting peoples with music instruments, ivory statues and colorful fabrics, which would be worn by people as a way of showing off their wealth.
Besides silk, many other valuable goods were traded as well. Gold, silver, glass, wool and linen would travel on camels’ backs from West to East, whilst musk, jade, ivory, furs, ceramics, paper and lacquer traveled the opposite direction. The camels’ conductors would often be merchants who braved hostile lands to keep this huge trading network alive for several centuries. The cultures and artifacts of the Silk Road were only recovered in the 19th and 20th centuries when Russian archaeologists excavated thirteen sites and regions in the Silk Road.
The exhibition ends with the decline of the trading activities, which took place in the 15th century after the Mongols conquered Central Asia. Nonetheless the impact this trading network had in many cultures would never be forgotten and the art produced in those regions would never be the same. So if you fancy to see something historical yet engaging and enjoyable, immerse yourself in this amazing journey.
Images: © State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg