Historical period(s)
Sasanian period, 3rd century
Silver and gilt
H x Diam (overall): 21 x 6.2 cm (8 1/4 x 2 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 21: Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran
Metalwork, Vessel


carving, casting, chasing, gilding, hammering, Iran, portrait, ruler, Sasanian period (ca. 224 - 651), WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

This simple but elegant vessel is among the earliest known Sasanian examples in silver. Allegedly found in the city of Kermanshah in northwestern Iran, it depicts the profile bust of a bearded man set on acanthus leaves. His dense curly hair and diadem indicate he is a member of Sasanian nobility. (A ruler would have worn a crown.) The design recalls Roman portrait medallions that rise from stylized calyx leaves.

Published References
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Ernst Kuhnel. A Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present. 6 vols., London and New York, 1938 - 1939. vol. 14: p. 3062, pl. 1496.
  • Prudence Oliver Harper. Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period. New York. vol. 1: p. 166, pl. 4.
  • Dr. Esin Atil. Exhibition of 2500 Years of Persian Art. Exh. cat. Washington, 1971. cat. 45.
  • Richard Ettinghausen, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Aus der Welt der Islamischen Kunst: Festschrift fur Ernst Kuhnel. Berlin. p. 12, figs. 1 a and b.
  • Ann C. Gunter, Paul Jett. Ancient Iranian Metalwork in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and Mainz, Germany, 1992. cat. 24, pp. 41.
  • Near Eastern Numismatics, Iconography, Epigraphy, and History: Studies in Honor of George C. Miles. Beirut. pp. 65, 71-72.
  • W. Thomas Chase. The Technical Examination of Two Sasanian Plates. vol. 7 Washington and Ann Arbor. p. 81, fig. 9.
  • Richard N. Frye. A Parthian Silver Bowl. vol. 17 Washington and Zurich, 1954. p. 144.
  • Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium Vessels: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986 at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. Washington. pp. 147-53.
  • Michael Vickers. Metrological Reflections: Attic, Hellenistic, Parthian and Sasanian Gold and Silver Plate. vol. 24, no. 2 Paris. pp. 163-85.
  • Boris I. Marshak. Silberschatze des Orients: Metallkunst des 3-13 Jahrhunderts und ihre Kontinuitat. Leipzig. p. 257.
  • Arthur John Arberry. The Legacy of Persia [A Review]. no. 17, no. 1/2, June 1954. p. 288.
  • Daniel T. Potts, Kate Masia-Redford. Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford handbooks Oxford, New York. p. 922, fig. 48.1.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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