Vessel terminating in the forepart of a fantastic leonine creature

ca. 5th century B.C.
H. 17 cm
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1954
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Horn-shaped vessels ending in an animal's head have a long history in the Near East as well as in Greece and Italy. Early Iranian examples are straight, with the cup and animal head in the same plane. Later, in the Achaemenid period, the head, or animal protome, was often placed at a right angle to the cup, as in this piece. In the manufacture of this gold vessel, several parts were invisibly joined by brazing, which demonstrates superb technical skill. One hundred and thirty-six feet of twisted wire decorate the upper band of the vessel in forty-four even rows, and the roof of the lion's mouth is raised in tiny ribs. Typical of Achaemenid style, the ferocity of the snarling lion has been tempered and restrained by decorative convention. The lion has a crest running down his back; his mane has the disciplined appearance of a woven material; and his flanks are covered by an ostrich plume. The inclusion of the plume, a departure from convention, suggests that this lion is winged and has some supernatural significance.

  • Provenance

    Ex-collection of Khalil Rabenou, New York; acquired by the Museum in 1954, purchased from The Kevorkian Foundation, New York.

  • Exhibition History

    "In the Presence of Kings," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 8–September 4, 1967.

  • References

    "Additions to the Collections." Eighty-Fourth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Year 1953, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13 (1) (Summer 1954), p. 17.

    Illustrated London News, 16 April 1955, p. 699.

    Wilkinson, Charles K. 1955. "Assyrian and Persian Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13 (7), pp. 221-223.

    Maryon, Herbert. 1956. "Fine Metal-Work." In A history of Technology II: The Mediterranean Civilizations and the Middle Ages, edited by Charles Singer et al. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 481-482.

    Amandry, Pierre. 1959. "Les douze plus belles découvertes des dix dernières années." Connaissance des Arts 94, p. 156, no. VII.

    Hoffman, Herbert. 1961. "The Persian Origins of Attic Rhyta." Antike Kunst 4 (1), p. 25, n. 49.

    Porada, Edith. 1962. Alt-Iran. Baden-Baden: Holle, p. 163.

    Glubock, Shirley. 1963. The Art of Lands in the Bible. New York: Atheneum, p. 19.

    Ghirshman, Roman. 1964. The Arts of Ancient Iran. New York: Golden Press, p. 253, fig. 306.

    Young, William J. 1965. "Sumptuary Arts of Ancient Persia." Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts 63 (331), no. 17, pp. 28-29.

    Porada, Edith. 1965. The Art of Ancient Iran. New York: Crown Publishers, p. 165, pl. 47.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. et al. 1966. Guide to the Ancient Near East Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 33, fig. 52.

    Akurgal, Ekrem. 1967. "Eine silber-schale aus dem Pontus." Antike Kunst 10, p. 33, fig. 7.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1970. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries, exh. cat. New York: Dutton, no. 61, p. 113.

    Hoving, Thomas, and Carmen Gómez-Moreno. 1972-1973. "Gold." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 31 (2), Winter 1972/1973, pp. 76-77.

    Thomsen, E.G. and H.H. Thomsen. 1976. "An analysis of wire making in antiquity." In Proceedings of the Fourth North American Metalworking Research Conference, edited by Taylan Altan, Columbus: Battelle's Columbus Laboratories, p. 140, fig. 1.

    Taft Museum. 1977. Best of Fifty, exh. cat. Cincinnati: Taft Museum, unpaged.

    Muscarella, Oscar W. 1980. "Excavated and Unexcavated Achaemenid Art." In Ancient Persia: The Art of an Empire (Invited Lectures on the Middle East at the Unviersity of Texas at Austin, Vol. 4), edited by Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Malibu: Undena Publications, p. 33, fig. 14.

    Hibbard, Howard. 1980. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harper and Row, fig. 116, p. 63.

    Amiet, Pierre. 1981. "The Middle East." In Art in the Ancient World: A Handbook of Styles and Forms. New York: Rizzoli, no. 201, p. 64.

    Muscarella, Oscar W.1983. In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 83.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1983. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 48, fig. 7.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, pp. 16-17, fig. 14.

    Porter, Barbara A. 1986. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art of the Ancient Near East: Permanent Galleries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 13.

    Meyers, Pieter. 1988. "The Structure of Works of Art and Historic Artifacts." Material Research Society Proceedings, Vol. 123, 5, p. 13, figs. 8-10.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History