Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World
One of the most sophisticated and widely admired of luxury arts was nurtured by the Sasanian dynasty, which emerged in the early third century as a political power from its homeland in southwestern Iran. Until 651, the Sasanians ruled a vast empire extending over present-day Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Positioned strategically between the Byzantine Empire to the west and the kingdoms of Central Asia and Tang dynasty China (618–907) to the east, they fought wars, engaged in trade, and exchanged diplomatic missions with neighbors as well as those in distant realms. Artisans in the Sasanian Empire created magnificent silver vessels, often with gilt decoration, which enjoyed enormous prestige both within the empire and beyond its frontiers. They often sought inspiration for shapes and decoration among a range of artistic traditions: southwest Asia, the Mediterranean, and Central Asia. In turn, these vessels influenced the forms, manufacturing techniques, and ornament of luxury metalwork and ceramics produced in other kingdoms along the trade routes linking China and the Mediterranean world.

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