The Shapur Plate: From Sasanian Iran to the Freer Gallery of Art

Process: Creating the Shapur Plate

The simplest silver plates from the Sasanian period were made with two pieces of silver that formed the body and the foot. In contrast, the Shapur plate consists of nineteen separate parts, an accomplishment that elevates it to the highest level of Sasanian craftsmanship. The plate was first hammered into shape and designs were then added by chasing, punching, and repoussé work. The lost piece of the boar’s haunch reveals how the pieces were added to the surface. Gold was applied through fire gilding, a process in which gold is mixed with mercury and then heated. The mercury burns away, leaving behind a thin layer of sparkling gold. At times, the gold spreads beyond the outline of a design, a characteristic of fire gilding.

Detail, Shapur PlateDetail, Shapur PlateDiagram of Shapur PlateRadiograph, Shapur Plate
Radiograph Detail, Shapur PlateImage of S1987.109Photo of small torso, FSC-M-80