Exhibitions/ Art Object

Oval bowl with grapevine scrolls inhabited by birds and animals

ca. 6th–7th century A.D.
Silver, mercury gilding
2.76 x 4.37 x 9.17 in. (7.01 x 11.1 x 23.29 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1959
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 405
This oval bowl, made from a single piece of hammered silver, is an example of one of the new vessel forms popular during the second half of the Sasanian period (A.D. 224-651): the shape is typical for wine drinking and most likely derives from Chinese prototypes. The background of the bowl’s exterior was carved out and then gilded, leaving the silver decoration in high relief. Tendrils of vine scrolls, one of the most popular motifs in Sasanian art, are arranged symmetrically along with grape clusters, lotus palmettes, birds and animals. The bearded dancing figure in the center most likely represents Silenos, leader of the satyrs, who along with the grapes and vines, attests to the continuing popularity of imagery associated with the Greek god Dionysos. The cup’s interior features a bird (probably a cock) holding a leaf in its beak, surrounded by bosses created by punching from the exterior surface.
Acquired by the Museum in 1959, purchased from Khalil Rabenou, New York.

“Splendeur des Sassanides: L’Empire Perse Entre Rome et la Chine (224-642).” Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels, February 12, 1993–April 25, 1993.

“The Nature of Islamic Ornament, Part II: Vegetal Patterns.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 10, 1998–January 10, 1999.

“Les Perses Sassanides: Fastes D’Un Empire Oublié, 224-642,” Musée Cernuschi, Paris, September 15, 2006–December 30, 2006.

“Glass, Gilding, and Grand Design: Art of Sasanian Iran (224-642),” Asia Society, New York, February 14, 2007–May 20, 2007.

"Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th century," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 14–July 8, 2012.

Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1983. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 91.

Harper, Prudence O. 2006. “Coupe en Forme de Nacelle Décor de Pampres de Vigne.” In Les Perses Sassanides: Fastes D’un Empire Oublié, 224-642, exh. cat. edited by Franҫoise Demange. Paris: Paris Musées, no. 40, pp. 102-103.

Valtz Fino, E. 2012. "Bowl with Inhabited Vine Scroll." Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th century, exh. cat. edited by Helen C. Evans and Brandie Ratliff. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, no. 19, p. 30.
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