Illustrated introduction to Mesopotamia, £8.99
Diameter: 19.700 cm
Bequeathed by Sir A.W. Franks
ME OA 1963.12-10.3
Room 34: The Islamic world
From Tabaristan, Iran, south of the Caspian Sea, 8th century AD
A banquet scene in the Sasanian style
During the first centuries of Islam, vessels reflected the earlier cultural traditions of the area in which they were made. Tabaristan was famous for silver vessels decorated in relief with scenes derived from the iconography of the Sasanian Empire. Hundreds of vessels were sent to the Caliphal court at Damascus and then at Baghdad where their beauty was celebrated in contemporary poetry.
On this dish a ruler in Sasanian costume reclines on a wheeled couch surrounded by attendants, musicians and items essential for an outdoor banquet: a vine hung with ripe grapes, a water-bottle made from the skin of a whole animal, wine jugs in a cooler and a pot suspended over a fire. The iconography on this dish derives from a Dionysiac scene such as that depicted on a Sasanian silver dish also on display in the British Museum, although the figures are fully dressed on the later dish and several other details have been altered or misunderstood.
R. Ward, Islamic metalwork (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)
T. Richard Blurton (ed.), The enduring image: treasures, exh. cat (British Council, 1997)