Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Plate with a hunting scene from the tale of Bahram Gur and Azadeh

Period:
Sasanian
Date:
ca. 5th century A.D.
Geography:
Iran
Culture:
Sasanian
Medium:
Silver, mercury gilding
Dimensions:
Height 1.62 in. (4.11 cm), Diameter 7.9 in. (20.1 cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Vessels-Inscribed
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994
Accession Number:
1994.402
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 405
The imagery on this plate represents the earliest known depiction of a well-known episode from the story of Bahram Gur or Bahram V, the Sasanian king (r. 420 –438). The story seems to have been popular for centuries—both in Sasanian times and under the Islamic rule that followed—but was only recorded in the Shahnamah, or Book of Kings, by Firdausi in the early eleventh century A.D., centuries after this plate was created. The Shahnamah recounts how Bahram Gur, challenged to feats of archery by his favorite musician, Azadeh, changed a male gazelle to a female and a female to a male and pinned the hind leg of an animal to its ear. This plate directly refers to the story of Bahram Gur because the horns of the male have been shot off with an arrow, transforming his appearance into that of a female, while the two arrows embedded in the head of the female make her appear to have horns like those of a male gazelle.

This plate was likely hammered into shape and then decorated to highlight its varied surface contours and colors, making its human and animal forms stand out in relief. It was partially gilded using a mixture of mercury and gold, which could be painted onto the surface. Large numbers of gold and silver vessels made during Sasanian rule in Iran and Mesopotamia have survived, demonstrating an ancient Near Eastern tradition that spread westward to the Hellenistic and Roman world, where vessels made of precious metals also became symbols of power and prestige. These objects, presumably official state products, were presented as royal gifts to persons of importance within Sasanian Iran and beyond its borders.

[adapted from Benzel, Kim, Sarah B. Graff, Yelena Rakic, and Edith W. Watts. 2010]
From 1963, on loan by The Guennol Collection (Alastair Bradley Martin's collection) to the Museum (L.63.10.2); until 1994, Alastair Bradley Martin's family; acquired by the Museum in 1994, purchased from The Merrin Gallery, New York.

“Sasanian Silver: Late Antique and Early Mediaeval Arts of Luxury from Iran,” The University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, August–September 1967.

“The Guennol Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 16, 1969–January 4, 1970.

“The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire,” Asia House Gallery, New York, The Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1978.

“The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.

Grabar, Oleg. 1967. "An Introduction to the Art of Sasanian Silver." In Sasanian Silver: Late Antique and Early Medieval Arts of Luxury From Iran, exh. cat. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Museum of Art, no. 3, pp. 51-53, 92-93.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1969. The Guennol Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Alastair B. Martin, exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 8, no. 71.

Rubin, Ida Ely, ed. 1975. The Guennol Collection, Vol. I. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 103-106.

Harper, Prudence O. 1978. The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire, exh. cat. New York: Asia House Gallery, no. 12. pp. 48-50, also pp. 27, 42, 82.

Harper, Prudence O. and Pieter Meyers. 1981. Silver Vessels of the Sasanian Period, Volume 1: Royal Imagery. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 157, 162, 183, 186, 196, 198-199, 239, pl. 38.

Fontana, Maria Vittoria. 1986. La leggenda di Bahram Gur e Azada. Materiale per la storia di una tipologia figurativa dalle origini al XIV secolo. Series Minor 24. Napoli: Istituto Universitario Orientale. Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici, no. 16, pp. 22-23, and pl. IV, 8.

Annual Report of the Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art 125 (July 1, 1994 - June 30, 1995), p. 8.

Evans, Helen. 2008. The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions, exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Benzel, Kim, Sarah B. Graff, Yelena Rakic, and Edith W. Watts. 2010. Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, image 30, pp. 110-111.
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