H. 10 13/16 in. (27.5 cm)
Purchase, Rogers Fund, Enid A. Haupt, Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager, Mrs. Muriel Palitz and Geert C.E. Prins Gifts; Pauline V. Fullerton Bequest; and Bequests of Mary Cushing Fosburgh, Edward C. Moore and Stephen Whitney Phoenix, by exchange, 1979 (1979.447)
Elaborate bowls, animal-headed drinking vessels, and rhytonsvessels with a hole at the front from which liquid flowswere highly valued in ancient Near Eastern society. During the pre-Achaemenid, Achaemenid, and Parthian periods, examples made of silver, gold, and clay were used throughout a vast area extending both to the east and west of Iran. The animals on these vessels included the ram, horse, bull, ibex, supernatural creatures, and female divinities; some were engraved with royal inscriptions. Rhytons made of precious materials were probably luxury wares used at royal courts. Both the rhyton and the animal-headed vessel were adopted by the Greek world as exotic and prestigious Oriental products.
Dating from the Parthian period, this silver rhyton is a fine example of the enduring influence of Hellenistic culture, which owes much to the artistic traditions of Achaemenid Iran. The horn-shaped vessel ends in the forepart of a wild cat; a spout for pouring is in the middle of its chest. A gilded fruit-laden grapevine winds around the animal's chest; at the other end of the rhyton, an ivy wreath encircles the rim. These are the symbols of the Greek god of wine Dionysos, whose cult spread eastward with the invasion of Alexander. Dionysiac imageswild felines, grapevines, and dancing femaleswere absorbed by the Parthians and continued to appear in the art of Near Eastern cultures in the later Sasanian period (224651).