Vessel terminating in the head of a ram

Iron Age III
ca. 7th–6th century B.C.
Northwestern Iran
14.5 x 8.44 in. (36.83 x 21.44 cm)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1955
Accession Number:
Not on view
In the ancient world the horns of animals were used as drinking vessels and provided a prototype for clay and metal containers. The bottom of this silver vessel consists of a carefully modelled ram’s head with stylized curled horns. Its impressive size, combined with the commanding power imbued in the ram, seems designed to convey the authority of those who were privileged to drink from it. Comparison with excavated material indicates that it was most likely produced in northwestern Iran, in the late seventh century B.C.

Expertise in silversmithing and a great sensitivity to the animal form characterize the metalwork of ancient Iran. This vessel began as a thick sheet or roughly shaped blank that gradually was hammered into the desired shape. Surface details such as the line around the ram’s nostrils and the hair pattern on the top of the animal’s head were added by punching and chasing, using metal tools to lightly strike the surface.
Acquired by the Museum in 1955, purchased from Khalil Rabenou, New York.

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De Laperouse, Jean-Francois. 2012. "Vessel Terminating in the Head of a Ram." In Earth, Sea, and Sky : Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, exh. cat. Tokyo: Yomiuri Shimbun, no. 41, pp. 95, 224.