- Museum number
Perforated silver plaque; lightly embossed scene of two long-tailed hunting dogs resembling mastiffs, one on either side of a male wild boar facing right, with a forked tail; the hair on all of the animals indicated with rows of tightly spaced incisions; feather-like plumes rising from the back legs of each dog, who also have muscles of the forelegs indicated with a pronounced curl; the eyebrows on the boar indicated by multiple ridges; rectangular shape, with a row of six circular perforations at each end, partly torn.
- Production date
- 6thC BC-7thC (between)
Diameter: 0.25 - 0.30 centimetres (of holes)
Height: 17.80 centimetres
Height: 4.10 centimetres
Length: 17.80 centimetres
Weight: 21 grammes
Thickness: 0.50 centimetres
Width: 4.10 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Gadd commented on the similarity of the forked tail of the boar to (Late Sasanian) representations at Taq-i Bustan, but compared the style of rendering of the haunches of the dogs and the shoulders of all the animals to representations on Sasanian silver and textiles. However, this date of this object is questionable. The style of rendering of the fur and musculature on the animals is very distinctive, and has some parallels with Achaemenid art. The silver composition has been scientifically analysed in the British Museum and shown to consist of 97% silver, 2.4% copper and minor trace elements of gold, lead and zinc.
"Treasures of the World's Cultures: The British Museum after 250 Years" catalogue entry
Silver plaque with hunting scene
Acquired in Iran
Height 4.1 cm, length 17.8 cm, weight 2.15 g
C. J. Gadd, “A Persian Silver Relief”, British Museum Quarterly 7 (1932), p. 48, pl. XXXc; M. J. Hughes & J. A. Hall, “X-ray Fluorescence Analyses of Late Roman and Sassanian Silver Plate”, Journal of Archaeological Science 6/4 (December 1979), p.328, table 1, no. 10; J. P. C. Kent & K. S. Painter eds, Wealth of the Roman World. Gold and Silver, AD 300-700 (London 1977), p.157, no. 329
There was a lengthy tradition of representing hunting scenes in Iran and other parts of the Middle East as they underlined the prowess of the king and the courtly aspirations of the wealthy. Assyrian kings had lions released into temporary hunting grounds delineated by shield walls; the Achaemenid and early Seleucid equivalent of 19th century “pig sticking” is represented on so-called Greco-Persian seals; wild animals were kept in Sasanian royal parks, and the hunting prowess of Sasanian rulers commemorated on silver plates, murals and rock reliefs.
This scene of a fierce wild boar cornered by a pair of mastiffs with bristling tails therefore evokes a very long tradition of hunting scenes in the art of the Middle East. The rows of narrow holes at each end imply that this object was intended to be sewn onto a soft backing, perhaps as a frontlet or a plaque on a leather belt. The silver composition has been scientifically analysed and shown to be of a high fineness as it is about 97% silver, plus a small amount of copper. The date of the object is less certain however. When it was acquired in 1932, it was tentatively regarded as Parthian or Sasanian in date, and the forked tail of the boar compared with Sasanian representations on a rock-cut grotto at Taq-i Bustan in what is now western Iran. However, the style of rendering of the hair, the feather-like treatment of the dogs’ rear legs, the curling musculature on the dogs’ forelegs and the exaggerated shoulder of the boar are more distinctive features. These show some parallels with the much earlier art of the Achaemenid empire of the 6th-4th centuries BC.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2012 April - August, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, 'Treasures of the World’s Cultures'
2007 14 Sep-2 Dec, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2007 3 Feb-27 May, Taipei, National Palace Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
G52/IRAN/22/9, from official opening 17/11/95.
G49/IRAN, case 22, no. 10,16 Jun-23 Dec 1994.
Iranian Room [IR], case 20, no. 6, Jul 1975-ca 1990.
Iranian Room wall-case 8/2
Persian Landing [P.L.] 3
- Complete; perforations at the top left and bottom right are partly torn; old folds in the metal and back deliberately left in an uncleaned state (2006 condition report).
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Deposited 15 May 1931, together with a "silver cup repoussé" (returned to the owner the following day), by R. Hormozdiar via Luzac & Company, from whiom it was purchased. Brief correspondence on this acquisition is dated 28 May (from Hormozdiar) and 29 May (Luzac); the bill was paid the following financial year (letter from Luzac dated 2 April 1932). Subsequently reported to Trustees on 6 May 1932, where described as "a silver band, from a belt, with a repousse relief of two dogs chasing a wild boar. The piece cannot be dated with certainty; it possibly is to be classed as Parthian or early Sassanian, and compared with the famous relief of Shahpur. There is no example of similar work in the department". Published by Gadd in 1932 as being "bought in Persia", in turn leading to a photograph order (CORRES 1934, q.v. Pope).
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number