Historical period(s)
Sasanian period, 7th century
Silver and gilt
H x W x D: 4.9 x 19 x 19 cm (1 15/16 x 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel


Iran, Sasanian period (ca. 224 - 651)
Provenance research underway.

The decoration on this plate, a couple seated on a couch and grasping a wreath or diadem, is also found on Sasanian seal stones. The male figure wears a mural crown, indicating that this is a scene of a royal or princely banquet. Late in the Sasanian period (ca. 224-651), silver plates with interior decoration were fashioned for a noble clientele. Most depict subjects with religious meaning; this plate is therefore unusual in the repertory of late Sasanian silver plate.

Below the couch is the head of a ram in profile, facing right. In Zoroastrian writing the ram, or mouflon, is associated with the Iranian god Verethragna and with royal glory or fortune (xvarnah). The animal appears frequently in Sasanian art--on silver vessels, as a stucco pattern, on textiles, and on seal stones. Depicted as an isolated head, this animal image can be found on other examples of Sasanian and Central Asian silver. If intended to symbolize Verethragna and thus also valor, the animal head would then emphasize the heroic aspect of the royal banquet.

Published References
  • Kathryn Babayan. Mystics, Monarchs, and Messiahs: Cultural Landscapes of Early Modern Iran. Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs, no. 35 Cambridge, Massachusetts. fig. 1.
  • Ann C. Gunter. The Art of Eating and Drinking in Ancient Iran. vol. 1, no. 2 New York. p. 43, fig. 26.
  • Lin Meicun. Guyuan Sute mu suo chu zhonggu Posiwen yinzhang ji qi xiangguan wenti [The seal with an ancient Persian inscription from a Sogdian grave at Guyuan and related questions]. no. 1 Xi'an Shi. pp. 50-54.
  • Roman Ghirshman. Notes Iraniennes V: Scenes de Banquet sur l'Argenterie Sassanide. vol. 16, no. 1/2. pp. 51-76.
  • Ann C. Gunter, Paul Jett. Ancient Iranian Metalwork in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art. Washington and Mainz, Germany, 1992. cat. 18, pp. 131-35.
  • Ecclesiastical Silver Plate in Sixth-Century Byzantium Vessels: Papers of the Symposium held May 16-18, 1986 at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore and Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C. Washington. pp. 147-53.
  • Michael Vickers. Metrological Reflections: Attic, Hellenistic, Parthian and Sasanian Gold and Silver Plate. vol. 24, no. 2 Paris. pp. 163-85.
  • Commemoration Cyrus: actes du Congres de Shiraz 1971 et autres etudes redigees a l'occasion du 2500e anniversaire de la fondatin de l'Enpire Perse. Acta Iranica 3 vols, Teheran and Leiden. pp. 171-202.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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