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Iranian Antiques in British Museum

British Museum

The British Museum in London is one of the most famous museums of the world housing Persian artifacts.

In fact, many Persian relics are kept in international museums. Most of these were looted from Iran due to the negligence of past rulers, reported.

Some of the Persian artifacts now in the British Museum are briefly outlined below:

Lacquer chest

This is an elaborate toolkit for weighing jewelry. It includes scissors, tweezers, measuring spoons, three weighing scales of different sizes and a set of weights.

Lacquer chest

The various steel objects are damascened in gold, and fit into custom-made sections inside the box. Inside the lid is a mirror.

The lid of the chest shows Prophet Solomon (PBUH) enthroned in an assembled court of humans, demons, birds and animals.

Prophet Solomon (PBUH) features in both the Qur’an and the Bible as the wise king who tested Belqis, the queen of Sheba.

According to Islamic legend, Prophet Solomon (PBUH) commanded all spirits and was able to speak to animals. His personal messenger was the hoopoe, shown here on a ledge behind the throne.

The sides of the chest are painted with hunting scenes of princes on horseback, against a rather Europeanized scene of wooded hills and occasional isolated buildings.

The influence of European art on Islamic painting began in the 17th century, with the increasing commercial and diplomatic contact between the East and the West.

The lacquer decoration of the box is achieved by watercolor paint covered with a glossy layer of transparent or slightly golden varnish.

Achaemenian decoration

This decorative medium had been used on bookbinding in Iran since the late 15th century, and it became extremely popular during the Qajar dynasty (1794-1925).

Silver bowl

This silver bowl is decorated with hammered petals or lobes on the underside that alternate with heads and winged lions in applied silver cutouts.

The heads resemble that of the Egyptian god Bes, a popular apotropaic figure (a figure warding off evil) in the Achaemenid period. Bes appears on metalwork, seals and amulets.

The bowl comes from a time when elaborate vessels in precious metal were particularly widespread.

Because of its great size, a wide variety of styles and forms in art existed throughout the Achaemenid empire.

Nonetheless, elements were drawn together from various cultures to create an artistic style that was distinctly Achaemenid.

Gold belt buckle

Gold belt buckle

This gold belt buckle is inlaid with turquoise and a brown stone. It was said to originally come from the treasure of the Karen Pahlavs (or Zafar Sultan), which was said to have been found in a chamber tomb near Nahavand, but there is no evidence to support this story.

It has a companion piece in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The eagle was a symbol of Parthian kingship.

The eagle and goat are the same as those represented on a monument of Antiochus I of Commagene (one of the many semi-independent regions of the Parthian Empire).

Much of the information we have about Parthian jewelry comes from a study of the sculptures and coins of the time, with some parallels on Gandharan sculptures from Pakistan. It was worn by both men and women in great profusion.

Silver bowl with applied gold figures

Silver bowl with applied gold figures

This silver bowl is decorated with applied gold sheet cutouts. It dates to a period when vessels of precious metal became widespread.

While a variety of styles and forms are found throughout the Achaemenid empire, because of its great size, there is also a recognizably Achaemenid style, perhaps promoted outside Iran by satraps (provincial governors) and other representatives of the Persian court.

Large silver dishes and pourers (rhyta) are the best-known types, yet others included hemispherical drinking cups such as this; a plain gold cup of the same shape forms part of the Oxus treasure.

The two rows of figures—each carrying a bow and quiver on his back—beneath the crenellated battlements are similar to the guards depicted on Achaemenid palace reliefs at Persepolis.  However, each wears a crown, which might suggest identification as a Persian king. Like the sculptures from Persepolis, the whole purpose of the decorative scheme was to glorify the king and his power.

Such images do not illustrate the king’s achievements, as the earlier Assyrian reliefs had done.  Rather, the king is presented both as an absolute monarch and as the embodiment of positive virtues.

Bridge-spouted jug on tripod stand

Bridge-spouted jug on tripod stand

In the late second millennium BCE, a new type of pottery called Late Western Grey Ware emerged in the historical site of Hassanlou in northwestern Iran.

Bridge-spouted vessels such as this one are typical. Similar jars with long spouts are known earlier, but they now have the addition of a bridge between the rim and the spout.

Most are handmade but some are wheel-thrown; they were typically fired in bonfire kiln conditions to create relatively low-fired yet practical pots with smoky grey surfaces.

The knob under the spout may have been to catch drips; it would have also helped to hold the pot with one hand placed beneath the spout with the other placed on the other side.

Such vessels appear to have been supported, as here, on openwork ceramic tripod supports, with feet ending in cloven hoofs or shoes.

These were designed to resemble metal stands. The popularity of beak-spouted jars reflects the wide use of hammered sheet-metal versions of the same vessel shape in Iran during this period.


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