British Museum collections, £12.99
Length: 31.000 cm
Height: 24.900 cm
Room 52: Ancient Iran
Leaded bronze figure of a winged beast
Parthian or Sasanian, about 3rd century AD
Said to have been found near the Helmand River, Afghanistan
A winged dragon
There is considerable debate about the date of this fabulous creature. It has been repaired several times and has a fourteenth-century Islamic inscription on one leg which cannot be read with certainty. However, the object probably dates either to the Parthian or Sasanian period. Fantastic creatures such as these dragons are often depicted in Sasanian art and are also found on the stone façade of the Islamic palace at Mshatta in Jordan, dating from around AD 740.
Alternatively, the Parthian period may be suggested, as the decoration on the chest is very similar to that found on furniture legs now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. These are very like Roman examples of the second to third centuries AD. Perhaps therefore a date in the late Parthian to early Sasanian period is possible for this piece.
J. Curtis, Ancient Persia-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)
S.R. Canby, 'Dragons' in Mythical beasts-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1995), pp. 14-43