A Rare Luristan Silver Master of Animals Finial, ca. 8th century BCE
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This fine openwork finial, cast using the lost wax method, comprises a figural register in a heavy square frame supported by a hollow shank. The top of the shank is defined by a pair of concentric ribs, between which a small loop, perhaps for a suspension chain, extends from the left. A long iron pin, separately made, extended up to the top of the shank but is now missing. The inside border of the frame is embellished with herringbone hatching. As the reverse is plain, it is clear that only the front was meant to be seen.
This pin type represents but one iconographical variety of a large group of openwork examples manufactured in Luristan. The central figure in the scene is a fantastic creature, a demon, represented by its head and tubular body that rests on a stylized lion mask. Within the round head, its eyes are rendered as round pupils, there is a long nose and a vertical line to represent the small mouth. Long, inward-curving horns merge with the nose, border the eyes then project around the top of the head. Two inverted, stylized leonine creatures flank the demon who holds each by their tails. They have elongated heads with large round eyes, pronounced ears, and curled tails. Rosettes are positioned on their backs.
Open-cast pins depicting either a mistress or master of animals are one of the most characteristic forms among the Luristan bronzes (Moorey 1971a, 20off.; see Nos. 285-287) but are very rare to be found in silver. The iconography occurs on many pins but it is not limited to them, for, among other items, it is of course characteristic of the classic Luristan finials.
For related examples in bronze see:
A. Aja, Openwork Pin Head, Harvard Art Museum Handbook, ed. S. Wolohojian (Cambridge, MA, 2008) 8.
P. R. S. Moorey, Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1971) 200 and 206, nos. 351-52, pl. 55; and
P. R. S. Moorey et al., Ancient Bronzes, Ceramics, and Seals: The Nasli M. Heeramaneck Collection of Ancient Near Eastern, Central Asiatic, and European Art (Los Angeles, 1981) 73-75, nos. 357-61.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art: http://collections.lacma.org/node/226013
Condition: The separately made iron pin now missing with slight damage to the top left corner, that does not detract. Otherwise, the finial is intact and in excellent condition overall, a rare and fine example. Accompanied by a museum-quality custom mount.
Dimensions: H: 2 3/4" (6.98 cm), W: 2 3/8" (6.03 cm)
Provenance: The Sheldon and Barbara Breitbart Collection of Ancient Art, NYC acquired from Charles Ede, London,1972