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.
Ex-collection of Khalil Rabenou, New York; acquired by the Museum in 1954, purchased from The Kevorkian Foundation, New York.
“Assyrian and Persian Art,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 25, 1955–January 22, 1956.
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“Gold,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, April 14–September 9, 1973.
“Best of Fifty,” The Taft Museum, Cincinnati, March 24–May 8, 1977.
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