Oblong Eight-lobed Cup

  • Iran
  • Persia, Sasanian period
  • 4th - 5th century
  • Parcel gilded silver
  • D-29 W-13
Catalogue Entry

This footed cup was fashioned by originally making an oblong cup and then incorporating the eight lobes. On either end of the long axis, the lobe is teardrop-shaped, making a large area of depression in the cup. Similarly, on the either end of the short axis, the lobe makes a circular depression on the inside of the vessel. As a result, the remaining four lobes of the cup, if viewed from the top, form an X-shaped area of depression. This X-shaped area, as well as the small border around the lip of the vessel, is gilded with gold. Also gilded are the grooves radiating from where the cup joins the base.

Ordinarily, eight-lobed cups are characterized as having a deep depression running alongside the long axis of the vessel, but examples having a centripetal design like the present work have also been known. Works similar to this cup are owned by the Cleveland Museum of Art in the United States and the Tenri University Sankokan Museum.*1 Examples now among the Abegg-stiftung Collection in Switzerland and the collection of the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. offer a type in which each of the eight lobes is made into an independent depression, visually analogous to a chrysanthemum flower, and then the elliptical shape is made, as it were, by pulling on two ends. Further, a vessel having the same stylistic features and probably made in the India/Pakistan area has been discovered in Datong, China.*2

As for the origin of elliptical eight-lobed cups, some consider that they imitate the open, shell-shaped vessels prevalent during the Roman era.*3 During this era, lobed vessels with an overall centripetal design, where each petal represented an area of depression and was rounded off at the lip, were widely used.*4 In Persia, too, during the same period, long boat-like cups, some footed were created. Given these developments in areas close to Iran, it is not impossible that this specific type of eight-lobed cup was created on the basic Persian design but incorporated the elements of Roman vessels with a centripetal element.