Lot 2303: Western Asiatic Lion-Mask Appliqué
December 9, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: 3rd-6th century AD. A silver-gilt discoid plaque with border of raised domes, central feline mask with fluted border, rectangular mouth with four large teeth, pointillé whiskers, raised muzzle with nostrils, lentoid eyes with pointillé pupils, D-shaped ears, extensive incised detailing; pierced in four places for attachment, one rivet remaining. For a similar example, but a silver-gilt shield boss, see The British Museum, accession number 134358; cf. Grabar, O. Sasanian Silver: Late Antique and Early Mediaeval Arts of Luxury From Iran, Michigan, 1967, p.129, no.46. 121 grams, 12.5cm (5"). Property of a North West London gentleman; ex Bonhams sale 20668, London, 1 May 2013; formerly with a central London gallery in 1990. The lion was a popular image in the Sassanian period and is frequently depicted upon coinage and seals of the time, as well as, in this example, as a shield boss. It is associated with Sassanian royal power, as well as being a symbol of the god Mithras, a deity popular in the Roman empire and who originally came from Persia. A silver plate that is believed to have been commissioned by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, (575-641 AD), to celebrate his victory over the Sassanian army, depicts the Biblical scene of the battle between David and Goliath, but here Goliath is shown as a Sassanian warrior holding a shield decorated with a lion boss; the plate is now in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917, accession number 17.190.396.
Condition Report: Fine condition, usage wear.