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Reflections of Heaven on Earth


The central feature of the second gallery at the Hermitage Rooms is the 'Bobrinsky' bucket, commissioned by a rich merchant of Herat in 1163. Here are six images which show buildings associated with the merchants who traded luxury goods between the eastern and western worlds across the plains and mountains of Central Asia. All but one of these photographs, too, were taken by Robert Byron on his journey to Oxiana in 1933/4.

1. The interior of the Caravanserai at Damascus in Syria. This huge Ottoman building was constructed between 1743 and 1753, and was still in active use when Byron photographed it.

2. An atmospheric photograph of the late 18th century Bazaar at Shiraz, taken by Robert Byron.

3. The magnificent if ruinous Sultanhan Caravanserai at Kayseri in Turkey, which was built between 1232 and 1236, showing the small mosque in the centre of the courtyard, and the entrance to the great hall of the caravanserai behind. A family of storks have made their nest on one of the arches of the great hall vault. This photograph was taken in the early 1950s by Miss V.Gordon, a scholar of Seljuk architecture.

4. An unnamed caravanserai, still clearly in active use, photographed by Robert Byron, somewhere between Herat and Murghab in Afghanistan.

5. The Khaju Bridge at Isfahan, built in 1650, photographed by Byron.

6. A view showing the elegant brick vaulting beneath the Khaju Bridge at Isfahan – again, photographed by Robert Byron.

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