Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Kneeling bull holding a spouted vessel, 3100–2900 b.c.; Proto–Elamite period
    Southwestern Iran
    Silver; H. 6 3/8 in. (16.3 cm)
    Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1966 (66.173)

    Soon after the political transformations of the Uruk period in southern Mesopotamia, similar innovations—including writing and cylinder seals, the mass production of standardized ceramics, and a figural art style—developed around the city of Susa in southwestern Iran, an area in which the predominant language was Elamite. While most of these innovations were adapted from Mesopotamian examples, they took on distinctive Elamite characteristics in Iran.

    This small silver bull, clothed in a garment decorated with a stepped pattern and holding a spouted vessel, shows a curious blend of human and animal traits. The large neck meets distinctly human shoulders, which taper into arms that end in hooves. Representations of animals in human postures were common in Proto-Elamite art, possibly as symbols of natural forces but just as likely as protagonists in myths or fables. The function of this small masterpiece remains uncertain. Traces of cloth found affixed to the figure suggest that it was intentionally buried, perhaps as part of a ritual or ceremony.

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  • Kneeling bull holding a spouted vessel, 3100–2900 B.C.; Proto-Elamite period
    Southwestern Iran
    Silver; H. 6 3/8 in. (16.3 cm)
    Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1966 (66.173)

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