Lot 115
  • 115

An important post-Sasanian silver-gilt footed dish, Persia, 8th Century,

150,000 - 180,000 GBP
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  • silver gilt
the shallow body with a gently everted rim on a short foot of double shell construction, the inner shell with relief decoration hammered with incised details, featuring a crowned rider on a horse hunting with bow and arrow, trampling a lion and two slain animals, surrounded by a laurel band, the background and certain details such as the crown gilt, exterior left plain


In good condition, some rubbing to surface, notably on external edge, the exterior plain with some areas of encrustation, as viewed.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Featuring prominently in Sasanian iconography, the theme of the royal hunter was represented on monuments, carved and painted on stone and stucco, woven in silk, and, as in this dish, hammered, cast, chased, engraved and gilt onto silver. Designs with an equestrian hunter and his quarry, in this case represented by the chased animal, a lion, reflected a higher balance, symbolic not only of the King’s victory against his enemies, but also the triumph of good over evil, an important theme in Zoroastrian belief.   

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.