Illustrated introduction to Ancient Persia, £8.99
Height: 4.000 cm
Weight: 952.000 g
Capacity: 1.900 litres
Purchased with the assistance of the
ME 1998-1-17, 1
Room 52: Ancient Iran
Achaemenid Persian, about 4th century
From Mazanderan, northern Iran
This magnificent large silver bowl was formed by hammering a single sheet of silver, then embossing the lobes and engraving plain elongated petals between the lobes.
It is somewhat similar to a large inscribed silver bowl of Artaxerxes I, also in The British Museum, though the decoration is more stylized. Indeed, examination by the Museum’s Department of Scientific Research showed that the silver used in both bowls had a similar composition, with a vry high silver purity.
The bowl is said to have been discovered in Mazanderan province in northern Iran and was first owned by Mr T.L. Jacks, the first Resident Director of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of BP, who was in Tehran from 1926 to 1935. It was acquired by Jacks between 1931 and 1935 and was first exhibited at the Third Exhibition on Persian Art, held in St Petersburg in 1935.
Little is known of Mazanderan during the Achaemenid period and it would have been distant from the centre of political power. The discovery, however, demonstrates the widespread influence of Achaemenid court style and the use of such bowls throughout the vast Persian empire which stretched from Egypt and the Aegean to the Indus Valley.
The patterns of corrosion on the reverse of the bowl, coupled with the damage to the lobes, suggest another bowl or object was nested inside it - perhaps in a hoard - or that it had been placed in a grave upside down and so the interior had been protected.
St J. Simpson, 'Late Achaemenid silver bowl from Mazanderan', British Museum Magazine: the-6, 32 (Autumn 1998), p. 32
St J. Simpson, 'The riches of all Persia', Minerva, 10: 2 (March/April 1999), pp. 21-22
St J. Simpson, 'Late Achaemenid bowl' in National Art Collections Fund: (, 1998), pp. 85-86, no. 4439