A royal Sasanian silver plate with a depiction of the hunting Shapur II, Iran, 4th century A.D.
Works of Art, Antiquities | A83kua | Live auction | 712 Lots
DescriptionFlat silver bowl, the large image area on the inside featuring a royal hunting scene in relief, some parts protruding prominently, and bordered by a double circular line and a stylised floral frieze. The king of kings mounted on his magnificently decorated steed, at full gallop to the right, drawing his bow freehand and taking aim at a group of rams. Two slain animals fill the lower half of the picture. Two other animals are fleeing at full speed to the right, the king in hot pursuit. The only landscape feature is a small hill/mountain with vegetation at the bottom right. Based on the four-point crenellated crown and the hairstyle, the rider is presumably meant to depict Shapur II, one of the most important Sasanian rulers. The portrayal of the great king and his quarry in exquisite, detailed repoussé and chased workmanship with engravings. A ring stand soldered onto the flat back. Beautifully wrought in high quality by a Sasanian master craftsman. Diameter 23.2 cm. Weight 631.5 g.
Michael Müller-Karpe, curator at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum in Mainz, is an expert on Iraqi metal vessels and considers the plate to be "an important testimony to the high standard of craftsmanship and art of Sasanid palace workshops".
Plates and bowls such as this were bestowed on worthy persons as favours from the ruler or presented to foreign princes as diplomatic gifts.
Similar bowls in terms of iconography (featuring other kings of kings) can be found in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (acc. no. 34.33) or as fragments in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, for example.
Shapur II (approx. 309 – 379 A.D.) was the longest reigning Sasanian ruler and is regarded as one of the most important kings of kings of this Persian dynasty. Legend has it that he was crowned in utero. As a young man, he had to defend himself against the marauding Arab tribes, successfully leading merciless campaigns to put them down. According to tradition, this earned him the sobriquet of Ḏu’l-Aktāf = "he who pierces shoulders" among the Arabs. He later waged wars lasting many years against the Romans and also against the Huns of Central Asia.
The subject of the royal hunt was of the utmost importance in Sasanian society: it was while hunting that the king of kings demonstrated his agility, stamina and physical strength when fighting wild animals (including lions, bears, etc.), an undertaking that was often fraught with danger. These qualities predestined him to command the army.
Provenance: From a southern German private collection. Acquired in summer 2018 at an auction hosted by the Bavarian Tax Office. Owned by a southern German dealer in 1997/98.
Condition: II Questions about the lot?