British Museum collections, £12.99
Bronze figure of a Sasanian king
Sasanian, about fourth century AD
A Sasanian king
This bronze figure represents a Sasanian king, although it is not known exactly which king is shown. The elaborate jewelled harness or breast chain is an emblem of royalty. The identifying beribboned headdress, rising from a crenellated crown, is now broken. The figure would originally have held a sword, and rested his hand on the hilt, but the sword was broken off in antiquity.
The Sasanian empire extended from Mesopotamia into Central Asia and Pakistan. It was a major economic and military rival of Rome and later of Byzantium, and had contacts with the Far East. Sasanian silver vessels were made in large quantities, along with high-quality cut glass, and such products were traded as far east as China, Korea and Japan.
Sasanian metalworkers were highly skilled and, when the Sasanian empire fell to the Islamic conquest of the mid-seventh century AD, the artists and craftsmen put themselves at the disposal of the new rulers and the needs of the new religion. It was through them that traditional Persian ornament came to have a profound influence on Islamic art.
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
B. Overlaet, Splendeur des Sassanides: Lemp (Brussels, 1993)