Stucco reliefs were commonly used to decorate the iwans and reception halls of elite Sasanian houses. Many examples were found in excavated houses in the Ctesiphon area including this fragment from Ma’aridh V depicting a reclining nude figure holding a cup. Found together with a stucco relief of a wine jar 32.150.28
, the two fragments most likely would have been part of a larger scene.
The city of Ctesiphon was located on the east bank of the Tigris River, 20 miles (32 km) south of modern Baghdad in Iraq. It flourished for more than 800 years as the capital of the Parthians and the Sasanians, the last two dynasties to rule the ancient Near East before the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. Systematic excavations in the Ctesiphon area were undertaken by an expedition in 1928–29 sponsored by the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Orient-Gesellschaft). The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Staatliche Museen, Berlin, undertook a joint expedition for one season in 1931–32. Several excavations were conducted, including at the main palace (Taq-i Kisra), in a small fortified area south of the palace at Tell Dheheb, at multiple houses at the mounds of Ma’aridh, and at additional houses at a small mound called Umm ez-Za’tir.
Over the course of the excavations in the Ctesiphon area, six houses from a series of small mounds called el Ma’aridh were excavated. The excavations at Ma’aridh V were undertaken when some stucco fragments were washed out by recent rainfall. More recent graves on top of the mound prevented a full scale excavation and the excavators were unable to recover a plan of the building. The stucco fragments excavated appear to have all been part of a double iwan structure, with several archivolt fragments recovered.