with applied gold figures
Achaemenid, about 5th-4th century BC
This silver bowl is decorated with applied gold sheet cutouts.
It dates to a period when vessels of precious metal became widespread.
While a variety of styles and forms are found throughout the Achaemenid
empire, because of its great size, there is also a recognizably Achaemenid
style, perhaps promoted outside Iran by satraps (provincial governors) and
other representatives of the Persian court. Large silver dishes and
pourers (rhyta) are the best-known types yet others included hemispherical
drinking cups such as this; a plain gold cup of the same shape forms part
of the Oxus treasure.
The two rows of figures - each carrying a bow and quiver on his back -
beneath the crenellated battlements are similar to the guards depicted on
Achaemenid palace reliefs at
Persepolis. However, each wears a crown,
which might suggest identification as a Persian king. Like the sculptures
from Persepolis, the whole purpose of the decorative scheme was to glorify
his majesty and his power. Such images do not illustrate the king's
achievements, as the earlier Assyrian reliefs had done. Rather, the king
is presented both as an absolute monarch and as the embodiment of positive
virtues. Royal inscriptions emphasize that the king was a good horseman,
spearman, and bowman, as shown here.
These roles were clearly an important part of Persian kingship. This bowl
originally formed part of a collection of Iranian objects formed by
Captain Spencer-Churchill, who exhibited it in the Second Exhibition on
Persian Art at the Royal Aacdemy in London in 1931.
Height: 6.9 cm
Diameter: 10.3 cm
Capacity: 3.9 litres