Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Head of a king, 4th century; Sasanian period
    Iran
    Gilded silver; H. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm)
    Fletcher Fund, 1965 (65.126)

    The Sasanian dynasty of Iran ruled an area from the Euphrates River to Bactria from the third century A.D. until the Islamic conquest in the seventh century, controlling for much of that time the Silk Road from Byzantium to China.

    Dating from the fourth century, this royal head, hammered from a single sheet of silver, with chased and repoussé details, has parallels in imperial portraits made in the Roman West. The king wears simple ovoid earrings and a beaded necklace of Sasanian fashion. His powerful stare and characteristic arched nose seem to suggest that the artist was attempting to convey a sense of majesty rather than an individual likeness. The identity of the subject of such representations, in relief or in the round, can often be determined by comparison of facial features and details of the crown with those of kings portrayed on Sasanian coins of the period. In this case, however, the crescent that decorates the crenellated crown and the striated orb that rises above it have no exact parallel. It does appear, however, on crowns worn by Kushano-Sasanian rulers. No crescent is seen on the official crowns of Shapur II, but a rock relief at Taq-i Bustan depicts Shapur III (r. 383–88) in a similar fashion.

    This work of art also appears on Connections: Eyes , Virtuosity

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  • Head of a king, 4th century; Sasanian period
    Iran
    Gilded silver; H. 15 3/4 in. (40 cm)
    Fletcher Fund, 1965 (65.126)

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