The Sasanian Empire (226-641), which stretched from the Tigris to the Ganges, threatening even the great power of Rome and Byzantium, left a legacy of works in silver unrivaled in the ancient world. Plates with representations of the king as hunter were products for the court, ewers with motifs of dancing women were for ritual use, and, late in the period, silver vessels were commissioned for the growing middle class.
This drinking bowl is hammered, gilded, and carved with the design in chased relief. A guinea fowl decorates the interior while vine scrolls with birds, guinea fowl, and a bear, fox, and dog eating grapes fill the exterior. At the center is a ram wearing a jeweled, ribboned collar. The imagery of animals and vines is borrowed from the late classical cult of Dionysus while the ram, symbol of the war god Verethragna, is a potent symbol of Sasanian royalty.
Artist Sasanian
  • Bowl
Date 500 - 600 CE
Medium gilded silver
Dimensions Overall: 2 × 5 1/4 inches (5.1 × 13.3 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Sarah Beacon Hill Fund
Accession Number 62.266
Department Ancient Near Eastern Art
On View Ancient Middle East Gallery, Level 1 (see map)
(J. J. Klejman Gallery);
1962-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
The Institute Collects. DIA. December 8, 1964-January 3, 1965, p. 22.

Grabar, Oleg, ed. Sasanian Silver Late Antique and Early Mediaeval Arts of Luxury from Iran. Exh. cat., The University of Michigan Museum of Art. Ann Arbor, August 13-September 17, 1967, cat. no. 41, p. 124, 125 (ill.).

Peck, E. H. "A Sasanian Silver Bowl," Bulletin of the DIA 47, no. 2 (1968): pp. 23-27, (cover ill.).

Dodd, E. C. "A Silver Vessel in the Collection of Elie Borowshi," Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. VII (1983): p. 152, (fig. 2) (ill.), pp. 146-147.

Henshaw, Julia P., ed. A Visitors Guide: The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 101 (ill.)