Spouted vessel with gazelle protome

Rhyton with compact horn and protome in the form of a gazelle’s head. A small tubular spout, damaged, protudes from the mouth. The lower part of the horn is fluted; on the upper part of the horn, above the scalloped edge of the fluting, is a bifurcated file of animals approaching a central tree: recumbent caprid, lion, trilobed tree with sinuous trunk, humped bull, caprid. The fur is represented by overall hatched lines; the figures are spot-gilded.

Above the frieze, a twisted band encircles the horn; between the band and the rim is a row of disks. The rim is rolled over and thickened on the exterior. Gilded details are: twisted bands around horns and behind head, nose, two flutes on underside of horn, parts of repoussé animals.

Historical period(s)
Sasanian period, 4th century
Medium
Silver and gilt
Dimensions
H x W x D: 15.5 x 25.4 x 14.1 cm (6 1/8 x 10 x 5 9/16 in)
Geography
Iran or Afghanistan
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1987.33
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 21: Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Vessel
Type

Spouted vessel

Keywords
Afghanistan, bull, chasing, gazelle, gilding, Iran, lion, repousse, Sasanian period (ca. 224 - 651), WWII-era provenance
Provenance

By 1966
Farhadi and Anavian Collection, New York, New York by October 1966 [1]

By 1967
R. & D. Anavian, Tehran, Iran and New York, New York by May 1967 [2]

From 1967 to 1987
Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York, purchased on May 2, 1967 likely in Tehran, Iran [3]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Arthur M. Sackler, New York [4]

Notes:

[1] At the time of the publication of Dorothy Shepherd’s article on the rhyton, the piece was in the collection of Farhadi and Anavian, New York. See Dorothy Shepherd, “Two Silver Rhyta,” Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 53 (1966), 300 fig. 11. See also object file.

[2] See invoice dated May 2, 1967, copy in object file, Collections Management Office.

[3] See note 2.

[4] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s)

Farhadi and Anavian Co.
R. & D. Anavian
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987

Description

Rhyton with compact horn and protome in the form of a gazelle's head. A small tubular spout, damaged, protudes from the mouth. The lower part of the horn is fluted; on the upper part of the horn, above the scalloped edge of the fluting, is a bifurcated file of animals approaching a central tree: recumbent caprid, lion, trilobed tree with sinuous trunk, humped bull, caprid. The fur is represented by overall hatched lines; the figures are spot-gilded.

Above the frieze, a twisted band encircles the horn; between the band and the rim is a row of disks. The rim is rolled over and thickened on the exterior. Gilded details are: twisted bands around horns and behind head, nose, two flutes on underside of horn, parts of repoussé animals.

Label

Vessels made entirely or in part in the shape of an animal, in both metal and ceramic versions, have a long history in ancient Iran.  Only a few examples of this vessel type, however, have surfaced among artifacts of the Sasanian period (ca. 224–651). Chiefly influenced by Roman and Byzantine prototypes and to some extent by Central Asian styles, Sasanian silver plate seldom drew on traditional Iranian vessel forms.  Horned animals, such as the ram and this gazelle, appear as quarry on some of the Sasanian silver and gilt plates depicting a royal hunt.  With its animal-shaped protome (forepart) joined to a compact horn and furnished with a spout through the animal's mouth, this is an extremely rare example dating from the Sasanian period.  This type of vessel embodies an important image and concept: a special liquid, probably wine, was contained in and dispensed from the mouth of an animal that itself held powerful, royal connotations.

Published References
  • Massoume Price. Ancient Iran. Culture of Iran Youth Series, 1st Edition. .
  • Najmieh Batmanglij. From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table. Washington. p. 11.
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales. Silk Road Saga: The Sarcophagus of Yu Hong. p. 17.
  • Prudence Oliver Harper. In Search of a Cultural Identity: Monuments and Artifacts of the Sasanian Near East, 3rd to 7th century A.D. New York. p. 28, fig. 28.
  • Prudence Oliver Harper. The Royal Hunter: The Art of the Sasanian Empire. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 5, pp. 36-38.
  • Ann C. Gunter. Ancient Iranian Drinking Vessles. vol. 18, no. 9 Hong Kong, September 1987. pp. 43, 44, fig. 10.
  • 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. pp. 43-44, 46, pl. 38, fig. 10.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. p. 45.
  • Ann C. Gunter. The Art of Eating and Drinking in Ancient Iran. vol. 1, no. 2 New York. p. 47, fig. 28.
  • , et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 20, pp. 48-49.
  • Roman Ghirshman. Le rhyton en Iran (Notes Iranniennes 11). vol. 25. pp. 57-80.
  • Jessica Harrison-Hall. China: A History in Objects. London, UK. p. 95, fig. 4.
  • Francoise Demange. Les Perses sassanides: fastes d'un empire oublie (224 - 642). Paris. cat. 58, pp. 118-119.
  • 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.
  • Argenterie Romaine et Byzantine, Actes de la Table Ronde, Paris, 11-13 Octobre 1983. Paris. pp. 157-158, pls. 1, 2.
  • Michael Vickers. Metrological Reflections: Attic, Hellenistic, Parthian and Sasanian Gold and Silver Plate. vol. 24, no. 2 Paris. pp. 163-85.
  • Weihrauch und Seide: alte Kulturen an der Seidenstrasse. Vienna. cat. 81, p. 234.
  • Klaus Parlasca. Ein hellenistisches Achat-Rhyton in China. vol. 37. pp. 280-90.
  • Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani. Le rhyton selon les sources persanes. Essai sur la continuite culturelle iranienne de l'Antiquite a l'Islam. vol. 11 Paris. no. 72, p. 280.
  • Dorothy Shepherd Payer. Two Silver Rhyta. no. 53 Cleveland. p. 300, fig. 11.
  • Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings. Exh. cat. Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 325, fig. 7.19.
  • , Prudence Oliver Harper, Georgina Herrmann. Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis: Miscellanea in Honorem Louis Vanden Berghe. 2 vols., Ghent. cat. 20, p. 857.
  • Daniel T. Potts, Kate Masia-Redford. Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford handbooks Oxford, New York. p. 929, fig. 48.2.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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