Spouted vessel with gazelle protome


Historical period(s)
Sasanian period, 4th century
Silver and gilt
H x W x D: 15.5 x 25.4 x 14.1 cm (6 1/8 x 10 x 5 9/16 in)
Iran or Afghanistan
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Spouted vessel

Afghanistan, bull, chasing, gazelle, gilding, Iran, lion, repousse, Sasanian period (ca. 224 - 651), WWII-era provenance

To at least 1966
Farhadi and Anavian Co., New York. [1]

From at least 1978 to 1987
Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York, purchased sometime between 1966 and 1978. [2]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Arthur M. Sackler, New York. [3]


[1] At the time of the publication of Dorothy Shepherd’s article on the rhyton, the piece was in the collection of Farhadi and Anavian, New York. See Dorothy Shepherd, “Two Silver Rhyta,” Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 53 (1966), 300 fig. 11. See also notes from the object file, Collections Management Office.

[2] By 1978 when this rhyton was published in Prudence O. Harper, The Royal Hunter: Art of the Sasanian Empire (New York, 1978) 36-38, no. 5, Harper wrote it was in Dr. Arthur M. Sackler’s collection. Sometime between 1966 and 1978 the object was purchased by Arthur M. Sackler. See also note 1.

[3] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s)

Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
Farhadi and Anavian Co.


Vessels made entirely or in part in the shape of an animal, in both metal and ceramic versions, have a long history in ancient Iran. Only a few examples of this vessel type, however, have surfaced among artifacts of the Sasanian period (ca. 224–651). Chiefly influenced by Roman and Byzantine prototypes and to some extent by Central Asian styles, Sasanian silver plate seldom drew on traditional Iranian vessel forms. Horned animals, such as the ram and this gazelle, appear as quarry on some of the Sasanian silver and gilt plates depicting a royal hunt. With its animal-shaped protome (forepart) joined to a compact horn and furnished with a spout through the animal's mouth, this is an extremely rare example dating from the Sasanian period. This type of vessel embodies an important image and concept: a special liquid, probably wine, was contained in and dispensed from the mouth of an animal that itself held powerful, royal connotations.

Published References
  • 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. pp. 43-44, 46, pl. 38, fig. 10.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 20, p. 48-49.
  • Ann C. Gunter. The Art of Eating and Drinking in Ancient Iran. vol. 1, no. 2 New York. p. 47, fig. 28.
  • Ann C. Gunter. Ancient Iranian Drinking Vessles. vol. 18, no. 9 Hong Kong, September 1987. pp. 43, 44, fig. 10.
  • Dorothy Shepherd Payer. Two Silver Rhyta. no. 53 Cleveland. p. 300, fig. 11.
  • Massoume Price. Ancient Iran. Culture of Iran Youth Series, 1st Edition. .
  • Assadullah Souren Melikian-Chirvani. Le rhyton selon les sources persanes. Essai sur la continuite culturelle iranienne de l'Antiquite a l'Islam. vol. 11 Paris. no. 72, p. 280.
  • Michael Vickers. Metrological Reflections: Attic, Hellenistic, Parthian and Sasanian Gold and Silver Plate. vol. 24, no. 2 Paris. pp. 163-85.
  • Najmieh Batmanglij. From Persia to Napa: Wine at the Persian Table. Washington. p. 11.
  • 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.
  • Prudence O. Harper. The Royal Hunter: The Art of the Sasanian Empire. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 5, pp. 36-38.
  • Argenterie Romaine et Byzantine, Actes de la Table Ronde, Paris, 11-13 Octobre 1983. Paris. pp. 157-158, pls. 1, 2.
  • Prudence O. Harper Georgina Herrmann. Archaeologia Iranica et Orientalis: Miscellanea in Honorem Louis Vanden Berghe. 2 vols., Ghent. cat. 20, p. 857.
  • Weihrauch und Seide: alte Kulturen an der Seidenstrasse. Vienna. cat. 81, p. 234.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. p. 45.
  • Francoise Demange. Les Perses sassanides: fastes d'un empire oublie (224 - 642). Paris. cat. 58, pp. 118-119.
  • Daniel T. Potts Kate Masia-Redford. Oxford Handbook of Ancient Iran. Oxford handbooks Oxford, New York. p. 929, fig. 48.2.
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales. Silk Road Saga: The Sarcophagus of Yu Hong. p. 17.
  • Prudence O. Harper. In Search of a Cultural Identity: Monuments and Artifacts of the Sasanian Near East, 3rd to 7th century A.D. New York. p. 28, fig. 28.
  • Roman Ghirshman. Le rhyton en Iran (Notes Iranniennes 11). vol. 25. pp. 57-80.
  • Klaus Parlasca. Ein hellenistisches Achat-Rhyton in China. vol. 37. pp. 280-90.
  • p. 95, fig. 4.
Collection Area(s)
Ancient Near Eastern Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum