The shallow bowl is composed of a single sheet of silver with repoussé decoration impressed from the interior. The decoration includes radiating lobed leaves interspersed with acanthus leaves emanating from...
The shallow bowl is composed of a single sheet of silver with repoussé decoration impressed from the interior. The decoration includes radiating lobed leaves interspersed with acanthus leaves emanating from a central rosette. The rosette and acanthus are gilded. The bowl has a carinated profile and a repoussé band of simplified ‘bead and reel’ at the join of the shoulder to the out turned rim. The rim is encircled with a long dotted inscription in Aramaic script, dedicating the bowl to the gods Hadad and the Sun by a ruler named Artabanus son of King Mithridates.
collection, acquired in the early 20th century; thence by descent
Such phialai were
libation bowls and this form has its origins in the lobed phiale mesomphalos of
Achaemenid Persia. They were made of various metals (silver,
but also bronze or gold), and survive in different shapes, although generally with
a shallow or wide body, and in varying sizes; they may be adorned with fluting
and/or friezes of palmettes, and even with figural scenes.
The importance of such
luxury tableware is demonstrated in the Persepolis reliefs where foreign
dignitaries present tableware including similar phialai as a gift to the
Persian Great King. The form continues with similar phialai being produced in
Iran in the Hellenistic and Seleucid Period, and onwards into the Parthian
According to the inscription,
this phiale was also an offering, but to the gods, from a member of the royal
family. It should be seen in the context of other Parthian silver gilt luxury tableware inscribed with Aramaic text. Two silver gilt rhyta in the Al-Sabah collection have closely-related 'Seleucid' type acanthus leaves: M.L. Carter, Arts of the Hellenized East, London, 2015, pp 86-93.