Published: January 31, 2012
In celebration of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery’s 25th anniversary, the Freer and Sackler’s extraordinary collection of luxury metalwork from ancient Iran goes on view February 4. “Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran” explores the beauty, role and function of luxury metalwork in ancient Iran. The exhibition features more than 40 works fashioned in silver and gold between the founding of the Achaemenid Empire circa 550 BCE and the beginning of the Islamic period in the Seventh Century.
A large number of the objects were part of Sackler’s original gift, 25 years ago when the gallery was inaugurated. These are juxtaposed with works from the Freer Gallery of Art, the Sackler’s sister museum, one of the first institutions in the United States to collect ancient Iranian metalwork. The exhibition is ongoing with no end date yet announced.
Installed in the connecting gallery between the two museums, the exhibition will highlight how rulers expressed the political power and material wealth of their empires through portable luxury objects.
The vessels on display include finely hammered bowls, cups, plates, ewers and bottles. Many of the objects were intended for elaborate, multicourse banquets, for which the Iranians were known throughout the ancient world. Others were used for more solemn religious ceremonies.
The art of ancient Iran had a lasting impact on the region long after the arrival of Islam in the seventh century. Several objects in the exhibition, including a magnificent gold jug, will highlight the continued use and reinterpretation of ancient Iranian motifs in the Islamic period.
Among the most celebrated works is a silver-gilt royal hunting plate with the portrait of Shapur II (309″79 CE), a Sasanian ruler recognizable by his distinctive crown. Fashioned out of 19 separate components, the plate is also one of the earliest Sasanian examples to depict a king hunting †one of the most enduring royal images from the ancient Near East.
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, at 1050 Independence Avenue SW, and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, at 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW, are on the National Mall. For information, 202-633-1000, TTY 202-633-5285 or www.asia.si.edu .
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