Breastplate fragment

Historical period(s)
Iron Age III, ca. 800-500 BCE
H x W x D: 9.3 x 18.1 x 0.5 cm (3 11/16 x 7 1/8 x 3/16 in)
Northwestern Iran
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn to the Smithsonian Institution
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Weapon and Armament

Breastplate (cuirass) (fragment)

bull, chasing, griffin, Iran, Iron Age III (ca. 800 - 500 BCE), repousse, tree, WWII-era provenance

From at least 1957 to 1966
Joseph H. Hirshhorn (1899-1981). [1]

From 1966 to 1986
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. [2]

From 1986
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, transferred from Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC [3]


[1] The object was published in the Royal Ontario Museum’s publication in 1957, which states that it belonged to Mr. Joseph H. Hirshhorn’s collection at the time. See Needler, Winifred (1957). Four Near Eastern Antiquities Lent by Mr. Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Royal Ontario Museum Bulletin of the Division of Art and Archaeology, 9-10, pl. 3A. See also Curatorial Remark 4 in the object record.

[2] See document from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, object file, Collections Management Office.

[3] See note 2. See also object file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Joseph H. Hirshhorn


This is a fragment from the lower part of a much larger pectoral, or breastplate, made of sheet metal and embellished with figures and ornament arranged in horizontal bands.

A breastplate shielded the chest from arrows or other weapons. The decoration on this example consists of mythical guardian creatures, whose images were believed to provide magical protection for the wearer.

A pectoral made of thin sheet gold, like this one, would have been attached to a sturdier material, probably leather. Given the fragility and cost of the material and its intricate decoration, the pectoral may have been fashioned specifically for ceremonial use or burial equipment.

Other fragments of this breastplate are today in the Cincinnati Art Museum and in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Fragments from a second gold breastplate are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the National Museum in Teheran.

Published References
  • Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Calendar: September/October 1990. Washington. .
  • Roman Ghirshman. Persia: From the Origins to Alexander the Great. The Arts of Mankind, vol. 6, English Edition. London. fig. 379.
  • Massoume Price. Ancient Iran. Culture of Iran Youth Series, 1st Edition. .
  • Helene Kantor. A Fragment of a Gold Applique from Ziwiye and Some Remarks on the Artistic Traditions of Armenia and Iran During the Early First Millennium B.C. no. 19, 1960. pp. 3-6, fig. 3.
  • Bernard Goldman. Ziwieyeh Micellany. N.S. 3. p. 8, figs. 4, 5.
  • Winifred Needler. Four Near Eastern Antiquities Lent by Mr. Joseph H. Hirshhorn. vol. 25. pp. 9-10, pl. 3a.
  • Sept mille ans d'art en Iran: Octobre 1961-Janvier 1962. Exh. cat. Paris. cat. 496, p. 83.
  • Pierre Amandry, Brill. A propos du tresor de Ziwiye. vol. 6, Leiden. pp. 111-113, fig. 2.
  • Bernard Goldman. Early Iranian Art in the Cincinnati Art Museum. no. 27 Detroit and New York. p. 325, fig. 1.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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