Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World

Iran, Sasanian period, 300–400, Silver and gilt
Freer Gallery of Art, Purchase, F1934.23
One of the earliest and most enduring of the royal images created during the Sasanian period shows the king on horseback hunting select quarry: boar, lion, antelope (or gazelle). The image, often embellished with gilding, was depicted on the interior of silver plates, about thirty of which have been found in Iran and neighboring countries. Produced in imperial workshops, these plates were given as official gifts from the king to high-ranking individuals within or beyond the empire's frontiers. In the early centuries of Sasanian rule, silver production was controlled by a royal monopoly and could be minted into coins or fashioned into objects only on the king's authority.

Although the royal figures on the plates are not labeled, often they can be identified by their crowns that sometimes also appear on coin portraits of individual Sasanian kings. The figure on this plate is generally identified as Shapur II (reigned 309–79). According to the Book of Kings, even as a child he displayed the great wisdom that characterized the ideal ruler.

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