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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Sassanid Art : Sasanian Plate with Royal Hunting Scene
Sasanian Plate with Royal Hunting Scene - CB.864
Origin: Sasanian Empire
Circa: 4 th Century AD to 6 th Century AD
Dimensions: 10.2" (25.9cm) high
Medium: Silver based alloy
Condition: Very Fine

Additional Information: Dimensions are given without mounting.

Location: Great Britain
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This splendid plate bears a representation of one of the most famous iconographies in Sasanian Art: the royal hunting. A king rides fiercely his horse, while brandishing a lion cub in the upper hand. The cub's parents are leaping toward the king: one rises fiercely, while the other is being slain with a large sword.

The king is richly dressed and wears a complex crown with a crescent and a sphere (symbolizing the moon and the sun). The shape of the crown allows to propose an identification with Varahran V (reigned AD 420-438, popularly known as Bahram Gur or Bahram V) whose hunting exploits became legendary. The general layout of the scene, with the double quarry, matches the style and iconography of the second half of the fourth century and first half of the fifth. Another element to consider for a possible identification is the fact that the iconography of the royal hunt becomes more common from the reign of Shapur II (310–379 AD) onward.

The alloy appears to be mostly composed by silver, with a component of copper (evidenced by traces of green oxidation). This is comparable with known and published Sasanian alloys (cf. British Museum 124092: analysed by XRF and suggested to have a silver composition of 94.2 – 94.9%, copper content of 4.05 – 4.7%, and 0.5 – 0.7% gold).

The royal hunting was a very important motif in the iconography of Sasanian rulers. This subject embodied visually the great might and power of the kings, their ability to protect their kingdom in battle, and their prowess at hunting (particularly important for kings such as Bahram V –probably the subject represented on this plate- who greatly favoured this sport). The subject is commonly represented on silver vessels for the Sasanian elite, which could then show their allegiance and link to the king. These plates were also sent often as gifts to neighbouring courts.

An exceptionally close comparable, both for iconography and for the features of the King (as identified by the crown) is a silver plate kept at the British Museum (n. 124092) where the king was identified as Bahram V.

Bibliography: Prudence Oliver Harper 1981, ‘Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period, Vol. 1: Royal Imagery’, Metropolitan Museum of Art, published in association with Princeton University Press. - (CB.864)


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