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plate

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    124093

  • Description

    Fragmentary shallow silver plate with small foot ring; hammered sheet, engraved decoration with much of the low-relief portions formed by adding separate elements held on by crimping (many of these subsequently detached); traces of mercury gilding in the chased lines; decorative composition composed of a central roundel divided into two by a horizontal line, surrounded by an outer register; in the uppermost register a royal figure with long hair, surrounded by radiating lines with a pair of ribbons behind, seated on a bench-throne supported by a pair of griffins facing outwards; in his right hand he holds out a large ring to a bearded man; this second figure is wearing a long tunic and trousers, plus a long straight sword, and stands on the left of the seated figure and extends his right hand to receive the proffered ring; the seated figure wears a tunic, trousers and boots, and with his left hand grasps the hilt of a sword held vertically between his legs, with his feet resting on a flared foot-stool; in the air between the two figures hovers a male cupid or genius bearing a band or fillet; and behind the second figure is a plant or tree with triple leaves; in the lower register a male figure stands on the right, carrying a bow in his left hand, with ribbons flowing back from his head, and proffers in his right hand a large ring with pendant ribbons to a long-haired, possibly female, figure seated facing him, who is also wearing flowing ribbons and holds a rod or staff in his or her left hand. In the border in the centre of the right-hand side a male figure reclines on a couch or throne, holding in his right hand a conventionalised flower and a presumed cup (missing) in his left; before him sits a possibly female figure extending her right hand towards him, while behind her, on a long backless seat, are two other women, each holding a flower in their left hands; all turn towards the reclining figure, on the other side of whom, on a similar seat, sit two other figures, again probably female, with crossed legs, the nearest of whom holds a flower in her right hand; beyond these figures is a conventionalised tree with triple leaves, and beyond the first-mentioned group are a man blowing a curved horn (far left), a dancing or running youth (centre), and a standing male figure with flowing cloak and long-necked musical instrument in his hands (right), all looking towards the principal personage; centering mark between a pair of shallow concentric engraved lines on the underside; low slightly flared foot ring.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 4thC(late) (?)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 24.6 centimetres
    • Height: 4 centimetres
    • Height: 1.2 centimetres (foot ring)
    • Weight: 519.5 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    The heavy wear implies that this plate has been in lengthy circulation. It has been attributed to the second half of the 4th century AD on iconographic grounds. Details of the dress, weapons and possibly the figures themselves are comparable to those in Sasanian iconography, yet the composition and subject-matter are unparalleled in that genre, and the tree motif instead resembles one found in eastern plates. Orbeli (in 'Survey of Persian Art') suggests that it may represent the investiture of Bahram II, and the banqueting scene may commemorate Nauruz. An eastern manufacture is more commonly accepted. V. Lukonin (1967) was the first to suggest that this plate might be of Kushano-Sasanian production and dated it to the fourth century, drawing comparison with coin portraits. Its reported acquisition in Rawalpindi is consistent with this eastern production. This was followed by P. O. Harper (1981) who suggested it was possibly made in an eastern Iranian centre such as Merv or Kabul in contrast to other Sasanian silver which is of so-called "Central Sasanian" manufacture. Tanabe (1989) generally concurs, suggests a third to fourth century but prefers an origin in northern Afghanistan. On the other hand B. Marshak (1986) identifies it as late Hephthalite rather than Kushano-Sasanian.

    The iconography is discussed in detail by Mehdi Moussavi in his unpublished docoral thesis, "Sasanian Figural Silverwork: Imitation, Innovation and the Transformation of Meaning" (Bradford 2004). Among the issues and questions arising from this study although not specifically described, are that none of the figures wear crowns; if the central figures are "royal", are those in the periphery intended to be the clients?; the vegetation is employed as form of visual punctuation; the 90 degree change in orientation between the central and peripheral scenes might be interpreted as non-conflicting and part of the process of handling and physically turning the bowl; the damaged areas are the least significant iconographically and might reflect gradual recycling of the added elements and the bottom left corner which evidently carried less important iconography.

    Other details of the furniture have also attacted attention. V. Curtis (1993, 'Persian Myths', p. 15) suggests that the griffin-supports are "simurgh-like". The bench-throne is supported by an antithetical pair of winged griffins and several cast bronze furniture supports in the form of the foreparts of griffins are known, and represented by examples in the Louvre, Hermitage and Baku, a fourth was reportedly found near the modern village of Tuzandejan, near Nishapur, in north-east Iran (A. Mousavi, 1990: "Two bronze statuettes from Tuzandejan, Khurasan", 'Bulletin of the Ancient Orient Museum' 11, 121-34), and moulds for the casting of similar elements were excavated by the Italian archaeological expedition to Iraq at Veh Ardashir.

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  • Bibliography

    • Moussavi M 2004a bibliographic details
    • Pinder-Wilson 1971a no. 118 bibliographic details
    • Kent & Painter 1977 no.306 bibliographic details
    • Overlaet B 1993a p. 208, no. 62 bibliographic details
    • Harper P O & Meyers P 1981a p.108 bibliographic details
    • Curtis 1993a p.15 (illustrated) bibliographic details
    • Curtis 1997b p.242 (on Rawalpindi as a provenance) bibliographic details
    • Hughes M J & Hall J A 1979a p.328, table 1 bibliographic details
    • Harper P O 2000a p.51 (3rdC-4thC, possibly Kushano-Sasanian) bibliographic details
    • Ghirshman R 1952a p.66 bibliographic details
    • Callieri 1990 p.82 bibliographic details
    • Harper P O 1979a pl. VIII bibliographic details
    • Smirnov 1909 pl. XVI, no.39 (CHECK) bibliographic details
    • Duchesne-Guillemin 1993a pp. 50-51, no. 6 bibliographic details
    • Dalton 1964a pp. 62-64, pl. XXXVIII, no 208 bibliographic details
    • Harper P O 1989a pp. 854-55, pl. VI bibliographic details
    • Marshak B 1986a pp.29-30, fig. 96 (late Hephthalite) bibliographic details
    • Tanabe K 1989a pp.51-55 bibliographic details
    • Simpson 2012a pp.76-77 bibliographic details
    • Pope 1938 vol. I, 718, vol.IV, 239B (essay by Orbeli) bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G52/dc7

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2013-2014 24 Oct-27 Apr, BM, G69a, 'Wise men from the East: Zoroastrian traditions in Persia and beyond'
    2007- BM, Rahim Irvani Gallery for Ancient Iran, case 6
    2006 13 Apr-Dec, BM, G2/168/5
    2005-2006 29 Jun-8 Jan, BM, G69a, 'Iran before Islam: Religion and Propaganda, AD 224-652'
    1995-2005 17 Nov-, BM, G52/IRAN/22/2
    1994 16 Jun-23 Dec, BM, G49/IRAN/22/2 1993 12 Feb-25 Apr, Belgium, Brussels, Musée Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Splendeur des Sassanides / Hofkunst Van des Sassanieden, no.62
    1975-ca 1990 Jul 1975-, BM, Iranian Room [IR]
    1971, BM, 'Royal Persia: a commemoration of Cyrus the Great and his successors on the occasion of the 2500th anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire'
    Persian Landing [P.L.], case 3.
    1931-ca 1939 BM, Room 20: Persian Room
    1923-1931 BM, King Edward VII Building: Franks Display

  • Condition

    One side badly damaged; gilded surfaces largely lost and surfaces heavily worn.

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1897

  • Acquisition notes

    Object originally obtained in Rawalpindi according to Dalton

  • Department

    Middle East

  • BM/Big number

    124093

  • Registration number

    1897,1231.188

  • Additional IDs

    • AF.188
    • OT. 208 (2nd edition of catalogue)
    • OT.188 (1st ed. of catalogue but not part of the Oxus Treasure)

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Object reference number: WCO26009

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