Plate with a hunting scene from the tale of Bahram Gur and Azadeh, 5th century; Sasanian period
Silver, mercury gilding; Diam. 7.9 in. (20.1 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1994 (1994.402)
The great Iranian epic the Shahnama, or Book of Kings, as recorded by Firdausi in the late tenth to early eleventh century, includes a tale of the Sasanian king Bahram V (r. 420–38), who was challenged to feats of archery by his favorite lyre player, Azadeh. With great skill, Bahram "Gur" (Wild Ass) shot an arrow that removed the horns of a male gazelle, transforming his appearance into that of a female, and shot two arrows into the head of a female gazelle, transforming her appearance into that of a male. The story became a favorite theme in the arts of Islam but was unknown on works of Sasanian date until the appearance of this gilt-silver plate.