- Museum number
Hemispherical silver bowl: decorated on the exterior with applied sheet gold cutouts which were apparently mass-produced using a series of standard stamps; around the rim, above a beaded line, runs a series of 58 battlements; around the sides run two friezes of 25 walking men of "royal hero" type, moving to the right and wearing crowns and Persian gowns, separated by a horizontal row of 38 rosettes; each figure wears a quiver-bowcase strapped to his upper back, and holds a twisted ring in his right hand and a floral device in the other hand; a frieze of 9 birds passant forms the lowest border.
- Production date
- 5thC BC-4thC BC
Diameter: 10.30 centimetres
Height: 6.90 centimetres
Weight: 188 grammes
Volume: 390 millilitres (to the brim)
- Curator's comments
The stylistic likelihood that this bowl was found in Turkey rather than Iran is supported by an entry in a manuscript catalogue of the previous owner. Correspondence from Richard Falkiner to John Curtis, dated 23 August 2005, encloses copy of a page from Churchill's MS catalogue and a letter from Hall encouraging him to purchase it. The originals are with Falkiner.
Letter from Hall, dated 9.xi.20:
"My dear Churchill,
Very many thanks for the birds, which arrived quite safely. Did you buy that Achaemenian bowl? I have been thinking it over, and I think it could be worth your while to get it, even if you have to pay him his price [marginal annotation: £1250]. It is an unique thing, and is far more worth having than many bronzes!
Spencer-Churchill MS Catalogue No. 211
"A silver Achaemenian hemi-spherical bowl with gold figures (all the same) of archers & birds appliqué & a gold castellated decoration round the rim. 2 3/4 in. high & 4 in diamater. 2 of the gold archers were stuck down by Goubert who suggests that the metal is not silver pure, but an amalgam resembling nothing he knows in modern metals. It gives a glassy ring when struck & would probably crack or break very much like glass. Possibly it is something akin to the ancient speculum metal. A unique piece & reminiscent of the frieze of Persian archers in the Louvre.
Found in Asia Minor & sent to Spink.
Dec 1920 £600."
The repeating guardsman figure recurs on a silver 'phiale' in the so-called "Lydian Treasure" (Özgen & Öztürk et al., 'The Lydian Treasure', Istanbul (1996), cat. 33, p.87); a similar form of vessel is also found in the same collection (op cit. cats 51-52, p.102). See also R. Ghirshman, '7000 Ans', cat.519, pl.XLIII; [Nancy Thomas], "No. 36. Bowl with gold appliques", cat. entry in 'Miho Museum', (Takeshi Umehara et al.), p. 84, Japan 1997.
Cat. entry for "Alexander the Great and the opening of the world – Asian cultures in transformation" (Svend Hansen, Alfried Wieczorek and Michael Tellenbach, eds)
Hemispherical silver bowl
Found in Turkey; 5thC BC-4thC BC Achaemenid
Silver, height 6.90cm, weight 188.00g
British Museum, London, Inv.-Nr. 134740
Purchased from: Capt Edward G Spencer-Churchill (estate), 1966
Hemispherical silver drinking-cup with the capacity of about a third of a litre. It is decorated with applied sheet gold cutouts which were apparently mass-produced using a series of standard stamps; around the rim, above a beaded line, runs a series of crenellations; around the sides run two friezes of walking men of "royal hero" type wearing crowns and Persian gowns and separated by a horizontal row of rosettes. Each figure wears a quiver-bowcase strapped to his upper back and holds a twisted ring in his right hand and a floral device in the other hand. A frieze of birds forms the lowermost border. The shape of the cup is matched by other examples found not only in Anatolia but also in the Oxus Treasure whereas the iconography is also typically Achaemenid.
Literature: P.R.S. Moorey, “The technique of gold-figure decoration on Achaemenid silver vessels and its antecedents”, Iranica Antiqua 23/1 (1988): pp.231-251, pls I-V; W. Seipel (ed.), Weihrauch und Seide: Alte Kulturen an der Seidenstrasse. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien, 21 January - 14 April 1996, Milan 1996 (pp.216, 394, cat.60); J.E. Curtis & N. Tallis (eds), Forgotten Empire: The world of Ancient Persia, London 2005 (p.118, cat. 111).
- Bibliographic references
Persian Art 1931b / Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Persian Art (p.7) (described as "Bowl, silver, semi-spherical, with applied gold figures of archers, birds, etc (many missing). Castellated decoration round the rim. Reminiscent of the frieze of Persian archers in the Louvre. Achaemenid. 7x10 cm. Lent by Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill")
British Museum Report of the Trustees 1966 / Report of the Trustees 1966 (p.39)
Barnett & Curtis 1973a / A review of acquisitions 1963-70 of Western Asiatic Antiquities (2) (pl.LIVa)
Moorey P R S 1988a / The technique of gold-figure decoration on Achaemenid silver vessels and its antecedents (p. 233, pl. Ia)
Curtis 1989a / Ancient Persia (p. 49, fig. 57)
Seipel W 1996a / Weihrauch und Seide: Alte Kulturen an der Seidenstrasse. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien, 21 January - 14 April 1996 (cat.60, pp.216, 394) (cat. entry by St J. Simpson)
Curtis 2000a / Ancient Persia (fig. 63)
Allen 2005a / The Persian Empire: A History (p.91) (wrongly credited as 13470)
Curtis & Tallis 2005 / Forgotten Empire: The world of Ancient Persia (cat. 111, p. 118)
- On display (G52/dc3)
- Exhibition history
2023 4 May - 13 Aug, London, BM, G35, Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
2005 Sept- 2006 Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
1996 17 Jan-14 Apr, Austria, Vienna, Kunsthistorisches museum, Weihrauch und Seide – geld und Luxus aus dem Antiken Orient
1995-2005 17 Nov-Aug, BM, G52/IRAN/7/11
1994 16 Jun-23 Dec, BM, G49/IRAN/7/11
1975-ca 1990 Jul-, BM, Iranian Room [IR], case 10
1931 Jan-, London, Royal Academy, 'International Exhibition on Persian Art, case 10F; to which loaned by its previous owner, Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired from Spink by the previous owner, Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill, in 1920. The dealers Hecht & Zacos were associated with an Achaemenid “silver bowl with gold inlay (partly broken, held in place with paper)” which was deposited in the BM on 24/9/59 (entry 1268). Although the present bowl was in the Spencer-Churchill collection in 1931 (when it was exhibited in the Persian Art Exhibition in London), this description suggests that he may have been using these dealers to solicit opinions on it before his death. He specified that the bowl should be offered to the BM in his will of 1964, and the private treaty sale was negotiated by Richard Falkiner. Acquisition among other items purchased from the estate of the late Captain E.G. Spencer-Churchill noted in the 'British Museum Quarterly' 32 (1967/68), p.57.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1050 (Spencer-Churchill coll. number)