The Shapur Plate: From Sasanian Iran to the Freer Gallery of Art

Court Culture: Gifts

Exchanging gifts was an ancient royal practice, one meant to establish good relationships between neighbors and to maintain control over vassal states. Silver vessels with images of kings or royal hunting scenes were often sent to regional princes or neighboring rulers as diplomatic gifts. Such objects have been found in Central Asian paintings, in European treasuries, and in recently excavated tombs in China. In return, the Sasanians received luxury goods as gifts and trade items, and in the process they created a complex network of artistic and diplomatic exchange.

Court Culture

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Bringing gifts to the king from different regions of the empire was an ancient ritual in Iran. Rock reliefs at Persepolis show vessels being brought to the ruler as tribute.

Tribute Bearer; Iran, Persepolis, Apadana; Photographic glass plate negative; Ernst Herzfeld Papers, FǀS Archives FSA A.6 04.GN.0993

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.