Bowl with Gold Appliques

  • Iran
  • Persia, Achaemenid period
  • 6th century B.C.
  • Silver with gold appliques
  • H-6.5 D-9
Catalogue Entry

This steep-sided hemispherical silver bowl is enlivened with gold appliqué arranged in four registers and with a twenty-two petaled gold-foil rosette covering the base. Beginning with the uppermost register, a frieze of joined lotus flowers and palmettes,1 the motifs depicted on this bowl follow the Achaemenid repertoire very closely. The second register shows fourteen striding composite beasts (one is now lost) with their heads looking backward. The animals, perhaps bull-sphinxes with a single horn, are executed with the characteristic hooked wing, secondary set of wings shown in relief along the sides of their bodies, and stylized musculature seen on such varied Achaemenid objects as cylinder seals, clothing appliqué, and architectural reliefs.2 Twelve double-horned ram-sphinxes circle the next register, while seven striding, snarling lions are depicted below. The lions are the most carefully formed, revealing their incisors within open mouths, manes rendered in regularized rows, and "figure-eight" musculature at their shoulders.

The bowl has been hammered from one piece of silver, with beaded-wire borders formed by carving framing the registers. These borders are covered with gold foil, which has been pushed and tooled into position. The gold appliqué, preformed over a matrix and set into spaces carved into the surface of the bowl, originally were fitted below a silver lip. The lip is now lost in most areas due to corrosion of the bowl's silver surface so that the majority of the appliqué are secured with a modern adhesive. The surface has been cleaned extensively and some of the appliqué-all of which appear to be original-have been repaired. Along with many ancient objects from Iran now in the Shumei collection, the bowl bears the nearly invisible stamp of a v within a triangle-probably the mark of a modern collector-located here on the rim.

1. See Muscarella 1992, p. 230.
2. For a clearly visible example see Pope and Ackerman 1977, vol. 7, p. 95.