Court art of Sogdian Samarqand in the 7th century AD

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Western wall

A modular scheme?

In his book L. Al'baum mentioned an interesting peculiarity of the paintings: On the western wall he observed preliminary sketch lines, and these lines divided the surface into squares with a lateral length of about 1,5 meters.

Al'baum gave no further details about the squares, especially concerning their exact position. Therefore, any further discussion of this topic remains speculative.

Nevertheless I have tried to divide the surviving parts into a framework based on the squares of 1,5 meters. The result is shown below:

sketch by M. Mode (1993, 2002)

Surprisingly this framework gives some insight into the internal structure of the composition:

1. Six squares make the total length of the delegatations rows (from figure 2, left, to figure 25, right).

2. Three quarters of one square are to be added to the left and to the right. They mark exactly two zones of special importance: to the right, the great gear of banners of the Turks; to the left the group of persons headed by the inscription-bearer no. 27.

3. If the lowermost square starts on the surface of the sufa, then the upper end of this square exactly marks the hight of the lowermost row of persons (above, field 1[=ornamental strip] plus field 2). The second square higher up (3) marks the entire second register of persons.

4. For the main actors once depicted on the western wall we have to reckon with considerably enlarged dimensions (as is indicated by examples from the northern and southern walls). In our opinion these persons must have covered the upper remains of field 3 as well as the entire field 4 and probably even more. [Cp. our discussion in the main text and concerning the upper portions of the western wall.]

We have no idea of the reasons for the supposed measuring unit of 1,5 meters. Interestingly, a Chinese unit called "bu" was during Tang times (AD 618-907) equivalent to 1,47 meters.

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