An important post-Sasanian silver-gilt footed dish, Persia, 8th Century,
- silver gilt
Datable to the post-Sasanian period, this dish harks back to an earlier style that reflects the king’s power as: “divine representative, protector of the realm, royal hunter, and overlord of a peaceful and well ordered state” (Harper 2006, p.21). The cultural and artistic resonance of the Sasanian Empire persisted even after its fall in 651, and this dish belongs to a tradition in which the motif of the crowned hunter on silverware represented “instruments of dynastic policy, icons of kingship” (Harper 2006, p.28). Rulers as late as the eleventh century were keen to draw parallels with their predecessors, with the Buyid Emir Adud al Daula (r.936-83 AD) formally adopting the title of Shahanshah, or “King of Kings”, evoking the triumphs and power of Sasanian kings of yore (C.E. Bosworth, ‘The Heritage of Rulership in early Islamic Iran and the Search for Dynastic connections with the Past” in Iran, vol. XI, London, 1973, p.57)
Iconographically, this dish relates to fourth-century dishes featuring the hunter King, notably, a plate in the Freer Gallery of Art, inv. no. 34.23, which has been associated with king Shapur II (r. 309-79 AD) (Gunter and Jett 1992, pp.106-113, no.13). The stepped crown with billowing folds may be interpreted as an adaptation of King Shapur II’s crown or that of his ancestor, King Shapur I (r.241-272 AD). Such fourth-century examples probably served as models for later designs such as the present plate that is similar to two plates dated to the seventh century. Notably, the application of gilding only to the background has been associated with the late fifth, early sixth century, as noted by Prudence Harper (Harper 2006, p.121). A plate now in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, (inv. no. S-297) features the King hunting rams and gazelles, all running away from him against a gold background (illustrated in: Brussels, 1993, pp.190-191, no.50). Another similar, post-Sasanian example of the same period is now in the Museum fur Islamische Kunst, Berlin, (inv. no. I.4925, ibid., p.199, no.56).
This bowl, datable to the post-Sasanian/early Islamic period bears testimony to the enduring grandeur of this great Empire, and the rich artistic production that it inspired.