Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Kneeling bull holding a spouted vessel

Period:
Proto-Elamite
Date:
ca. 3100–2900 B.C.
Geography:
Southwestern Iran
Culture:
Proto-Elamite
Medium:
Silver
Dimensions:
6 7/16 x 2 1/2 x 4 1/4in. (16.3 x 6.3 x 10.8cm)
Classification:
Metalwork-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1966
Accession Number:
66.173
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 402
Soon after the political transformations of the Uruk period in southern Mesopotamia, similar innovations—including writing and cylinder seals, the mass production of standardized ceramics, and a figural art style—developed around the city of Susa in southwestern Iran, an area in which the predominant language was Elamite. While most of these innovations were adapted from Mesopotamian examples, they all took on distinctive Elamite characteristics in Iran.

This small silver bull, clothed in a robe decorated with a stepped pattern and holding a spouted vessel, shows a curious blend of human and animal traits. The large neck meets distinctly human shoulders, which taper into arms that end in hooves. Representations of animals in human postures were common in Proto-Elamite art, possibly as symbols of natural forces but just as likely as protagonists in myths or fables. The function of this small masterpiece remains uncertain. Traces of cloth that were found affixed to the figure suggest that it was intentionally buried, perhaps as part of a ritual or ceremony.
Acquired by the Museum in 1966, purchased from K. Rabenou Ltd., New York.

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“Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions 1965–1975,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976.

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“’A Seal Upon Thine Heart’: Glyptic Art of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3500–2100 B.C.,” The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, New York, January 7–April 26, 1998.

“Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 8–August 17, 2003.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1972. Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 46, fig. 9.

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Porada, Edith. 1975. "Iranische Kunst." In Der Alte Orient edited by Winfried Orthmann. Propyläen Kunstgeschichte, Vol. 14. Berlin: Propyläen, pp. 364, 377, pl. XXXIb.

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Behm-Blancke, Manfred R. 1979. Das Tierbild in der Altmesopotamischen Rundplastik: Eine Untersuchung zum Stilwandel des frühsumerischen Rundbildes. Baghdader Forschungen, Vol. I. Mainz am Rhein: Philip von Zabern, Tabelle 4.

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Wu, Xin. 2006. Mesopotamia: Process of a Civilization. Beijing: Chinese Cultural Relics Press, p. 30.

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 3, pp. 55-56.
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