Exhibitions/ Art Object

Fragment of a wall decoration with a female dancer

Period:
Sasanian
Date:
ca. 6th century A.D.
Geography:
Mesopotamia, Ctesiphon
Culture:
Sasanian
Medium:
Stucco
Dimensions:
11 x 7.25 in. (27.94 x 18.42 cm)
Classification:
Stucco-Reliefs
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1932
Accession Number:
32.150.25
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 405
The stuccos from the Ma’aridh I house in the Ctesiphon area include several dancers and musicians. This stucco is of a female dancer in motion with a castanet in her hand. She wears a dress with a draped top, belted with a rosette at the waist. This fragment would have been part of a larger scene of musicians and dancers on a wall within the house.

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. These houses follow typical Sasanian design with a mix of square and elongated rooms. The house called Ma’aridh I is notable for its columned porch, which may have been decorated. Stucco reliefs were used to adorn the reception hall uncovered in the northwest part of the excavations and another room was decorated with figural scenes painted in vibrant colors. The excavated Sasanian houses have revealed that usually only one large hall or reception area was decorated, with the rest of the house coated with plain plaster. According to the excavators, the various walls and rooms of Ma’aridh I were expanded and altered throughout the Sasanian period. The house’s large size (800 square meters were excavated) and the rich finds, such as carnelian and beads, indicate the wealth of the Sasanian elites who resided here.

Excavation Number: O.1457 and O.1460
1931–32, excavated by the Joint Expedition of the Staatliche Museen of Berlin and the Metropolitan Museum of Art; acquired by the Museum in 1932, ceded in the division of finds.

“Music in the Visual Arts.” Fowler Museum art UCLA, Los Angeles, April 10, 1973–June 3, 1973.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department,” MOA Museum of Art, Atami, Japan, The Aiche Prefectural Art Gallery, Nagoya, Japan, The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1983.

Upton, Joseph. 1932. “The Expedition to Ctesiphon, 1931-1932.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 27, p. 195.

Kühnel, Ernst. 1933. Die Ausgrabungen der zweiten Ktesiphon-Expedition. Berlin: Staatliche Museen, p. 21, pl. 35.

Dimand, Maurice S. 1933. "Parthian and Sasanian Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28, p. 80.

Schmidt, J.H. 1934. "L'Expédition de Ctesiphon en 1931-1932." Syria 15, p. 15, pl. IV, D.

Erdmann, Kurt. 1943. Die Kunst zur Zeit der Sasaniden. Berlin: Kupferberg, fig. 46.

UCLA Museum of Cultural History. 1973. Music in the Visual Arts, exh. cat. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum, no. 15.

Kröger, Jens. 1982. Sasanidischer Stuckdekor. Baghdader Forschungen Band 5. Mainz: Philip von Zabern, pp. 85-88, no. 99, fig. 46, pl. 27/1.

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. 31.
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