EAST GREEK / ACHAEMENID BRONZE OFFERING DISH (PHIALE), CIRCA 6TH – 5TH CENTURY B.C.

$2,200.00

Culture: Achaemenid
Date: 6th – 5th Century B.C.
Medium: Bronze
Condition: Intact, very good.
Provenance: Ex- American private collection, 1990s; European art market.
Dimensions: H. 1 3/4 in. (4.5 cm.), Diam. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm.)
Ref No. NE1178

Out of stock

Description

This elegant band follows the standard decorative style preferred in the 6th century throughout the coastal Mediterranean region of Greece and deep into the East where the Achaemenid Empire (550-300 B.C.) ruled. At this time there was an outburst of revolt led by the Greeks against the ruling Persian Empire bringing about a clashing of culture as seen through art pieces such as this. For instance, if one follows the decorative band towards the zoomorphic terminals, one can notice a constant width, with little to no change in diameter, reflected of the Archaic style in Greece at the time where there was emphasis held on symmetry, precision, and naturalism. Furthermore, the pairing of the terminals with profile view of animalistic heads facing one another is highly typical in jewelry and other art mediums from the Archaic Period and onwards. What stands out with this piece in particular is the dramatic inlaid decorative band when one can see an imitation of filigree, a Near Eastern technique, in the shapes of circles. These spherical forms help the eye travel up and around the band, and to the snake head terminals, perhaps imitating the texture of the serpent, allowing a boldness of this decorative choice which assists in bringing life and movement juxtaposed to the pettiness of the band itself.
Furthermore, since the piece is in excellent condition, one can notice that the bracelet is of one solid bronze structure, pre-molded to form and heated for permanence. It was then covered in gold foiling, or thin layers of gold, to heighten the appeal of the aesthetics of the bracelet as seen through preserved gold pieces scattered around the patina of the bronze. This technique was regularly used in Greece as well as the Near East. Typical in the Near East is mirroring zoomorphic figures as well, particularly of the snake head. Illustrations of snakes have been seen throughout antiquity and are a highly prized image and one of the oldest ritual practices. The serpent consists of dual symbolism where both bad and good connotations are associated with it. On one hand, the serpent can be seen as a deceitful and dangerous figure, like when Zeus took on the form of a serpent to woe the mother of Alexander the Great. At the same time, they can be seen as wise and protectors, much like the Snake Goddess in Minoan times. The flexibility and mystery of the serpent makes it ever more appealing, which is why it was so commonly portrayed.
Similar pieces to this bracelet were found in the Achaemenid region between the 5th and 6th century, such as the bracelets referred to as duck headed terminals. This pair of bracelets consists of similar characteristics of zoomorphic terminals facing one another symmetrically on a singular band, thus confirming the cultural diffusion between Greece and the Near East. Furthermore, it emphasizes the importance of animal motifs as a whole and the typical decorative style of the time.
Bibliography
Price, Judith. “Persia.”Masterpieces of Ancient Jewelry: Exquisite Objects from the Cradle of Civilization. 2008 ed. Philadelphia, PA: Running, 2008. 68-73. Print.