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Clasp with an eagle and its prey

ca. A.D. 1st–2nd century
Gold, turquoise inlay
H. 6 cm, W. 8.4 cm
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This solid gold ornament is in the form of a roundel with two projecting elements that have slots for the attachment of a strap. The rim of the roundel, consisting of eighteen thumbnail-shaped cells for turquoise inlay in the manner of some Sarmatian roundels, frames the openwork figure of an eagle in high relief. Grasping a small, crouching animal in its talons, the bird perches in three-quarter view, facing right, with its chest extended and the rest of its body receding into the background. Its wings are outspread, the one on the left seen emerging from behind the swelling of the chest and the one on the right receding into the back plane. The body and legs carry ridges and linear patterning to suggest the texture of feathers. The bird's head is in profile, with a cell for the prominent ear, a protrusion at the eye area, a curved beak, and a downcurved line for the mouth. The entire figure is worked in the round, although the back is distorted and not as carefully finished as the front.

    The eagle's prey has been variously identified as an antelope, a goat, and a hare. Turquoise is inlaid in its large ear and in several places on its body. The tabs on either side of the roundel have cells for inlays at the corners in the form of debased acanthus leaves.

    This piece is one of a pair; its mate, in the British Museum, London, depicts an eagle facing the opposite way. It was thought by Ernst Herzfeld to be part of a treasure found in 1910–11 in a chamber tomb near Nihavend in Iran. Herzfeld speculated that this trove had belonged to an aristocratic Parthian family and had originally included a group of Roman gold coins of the first to second century A.D. that surfaced independently in modern times. Another related piece of jewelry, found in excavations at Dalverzin Tepe in Iran, can be dated archaeologically to the first century A.D.

  • Provenance

    Thought by Ernst Herzfeld to be part of a treasure found in 1910–11 in a chamber tomb near Nihavend in Iran; 1911-12, purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan from Arthur Sambon, Paris; acquired by the Museum in 1917, gift of J. Pierpont Morgan.

  • Exhibition History

    "The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 3, 2000–January 14, 2001.

  • References

    Conway, Sir Martin. 1917. "A gold ornament in the J. P. Morgan Collection." Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London XXIX, pp. 11-13.

    Herzfeld, Ernst. 1928. "The Hoard of the Kâren Pahlavs." The Burlington Magazine 52, No. 298 (Jan., 1928), p. 22, n. 1.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1929. The Pierpont Morgan wing. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p.9.

    Peirce, Hayford and Tyler, Royall. 1932. L'art byzantin, vol. 1. Paris : Librairie de France, pl. 9a.

    Ackerman, Phyllis. 1939. "Art of the Parthian silver- and goldsmiths." In Survey of Persian art, vol. 1, edited by Arthur U. Pope. London, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 460, 465, vol. IV, pl. 138A.

    Dimand, Maurice S. 1940. "Iranian Art in the Metropolitan Museum." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 35, p. 112, fig. 2.

    Dimand, Maurice S. 1944. A Handbook of Muhammadan art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 6.

    Dimand, Maurice S. and H.E. McAllister. 1944. Near Eastern Jewelry, a picture book. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, fig. 4.

    Lozinski, B. Ph. 1952. "Eagle Symbols in Metal Work." American Journal of Archaeology 56 (3), pp. 175-176.

    Ghirshman, Roman. 1962. Persian Art: the Parthian and Sasanian dynasties, 249 B.C. -A.D. 651. New York : Golden Press, fig. 112, p. 100.

    Ghirshman, Roman. 1961. Sept mille ans d'art en Iran, exh. cat. Paris, Petit Palais, Octobre 1961-Janvier 1962, no. 743, p. 126.

    Tait, Hugh, ed. 1976. Jewellry through 7000 Years. London: Trustees of the British Museum, p. 122.

    Aruz, Joan. 2000. In The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West, exh. cat. edited by Elizabeth J. Milleker. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 95, p.125

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History