Height: 89.000 cm
Gift of Mr Imre Schwaiger of Calcutta and
Simla, through the
ME OA 1912.7-16.1
Room 34: The Islamic world
Iran, 19th century AD
With two turquoises as eyes
This fine steel peacock may have decorated the
cross-bar of an
a standard carried during religious festivals in Iran. One of the
most important of these is Ashura, in honour of Husayn, the third
Shi'i Imam and son of
cAli (the fourth
Peacocks were symbols of beauty and the pleasures of the court throughout the Islamic world. The birds were often allowed to wander around the gardens of noblemen and models of peacocks ornamented the famous Peacock Throne taken from India to Iran by Nadir Shah in 1739. They also had a strong association with Shi'i and Sufi iconography.
At the time of its acquisition by The British Museum the peacock was thought to represent Ahriman, the 'devil' of Iranian mythology and was associated with the Yazidi devil worshippers, a small sect found in Kurdistan.
R. Ward, Islamic metalwork (London, The British Museum Press, 1993)