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Spouted vessel with gazelle protome
4th century


Sasanian period

Silver and gilt
H: 15.5 W: 25.4 D: 14.1 cm
Iran or Afghanistan

Gift of Arthur M. Sackler S1987.33

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Vessels made entirely or in part in the shape of an animal, in both metal and ceramic versions, have a long history in ancient Iran. Only a few examples of this vessel type, however, have surfaced among artifacts of the Sasanian period (ca. 224–651). Chiefly influenced by Roman and Byzantine prototypes and to some extent by Central Asian styles, Sasanian silver plate seldom drew on traditional Iranian vessel forms. Horned animals, such as the ram and this gazelle, appear as quarry on some of the Sasanian silver and gilt plates depicting a royal hunt. With its animal-shaped protome (forepart) joined to a compact horn and furnished with a spout through the animal's mouth, this is an extremely rare example dating from the Sasanian period. This type of vessel embodies an important image and concept: a special liquid, probably wine, was contained in and dispensed from the mouth of an animal that itself held powerful, royal connotations.