221 • A Bronze Pool Ornament in the form of two Toads

Herat, Afghanistan, 16th–17th century
Size: 16.5 cm long

In hot climates the soundtrack of gardens comes from frogs, crickets and birds. These coupling toads, found in a shallow pool in the garden outside the shrine of the Sufi saint, Abdullah Ansari, at Gazorgah above Herat, were perhaps a reminder of the bass-line of that garden’s melody. Ansari lived in the 11th century. His shrine was an important place of pilgrimage, particularly from the 15th century onwards, when the Timurid rulers of Herat developed it into a major architectural complex. Work there was begun by Shahrukh, Tamerlane’s youngest son, in 1425. The second Mughal emperor, Humayun, felt a special reverence for Ansari, to whose influence he attributed his successful re-conquest of his kingdom of India in 1555, after fifteen years of exile in Persia. This surprising sculpture is heavily cast and finely moulded, and probably dates from the early Mughal period.

A report of the scientific examination by Striptwist Laboratory is available.