This is an absolutely wonderful bronze beaker from ancient western Iran and dating to the 9th-8th century B.C. The beaker has a slender and cylindrical shape with gently curving concave sides and a tapering base that terminates in a "nipple", a central knob on the bottom surrounded by twelve petals of a rosette. It is because of this knob that Muscarella (1988, p. 245) suggested to call objects like this a "nipple beaker" (German: Knopfbecher) instead of situla, as has been (and still is) customary; the term situla should only be used for buckets with handles.
The central field has a marvellous scene, showing two goats leaping over a rock while looking back; flowers are depicted on the rocks, and a hanging lotus blossom is shown above the rear ends of the goats. The rendering of the anatomy of the animals, their fur and the structure of the horns is beautifully detailed. The picture field is framed by a tongued frieze above and below; there is also an interlacing pattern (guilloche) around the rim.
For decorated beakers and the discussions concerning these, see Muscarella (1988), p. 244-248. For a close parallel to our beaker, although showing different animals (human-headed bulls) but with the same lay-out (a rim decorated by a guilloche and tongue pattern, the base decorated by a framed tongue pattern that borders a rosette, the centre of which is a nipple, animals facing each other, stylized plants, a plant suspended from the upper border above the animals’ rear ends) compare ibid., no. 343 (which is Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, inv.no. 1971.129), as well as Moorey (1971), p. 270 and pl. 81, no. 516 (Ashmolean Museum Oxford, inv.no. 1965.822, showing winged bulls), and especially Contenau (1947), p. 2172, fig. 1208, top right (a goat, similarly looking backwards but being hunted).
This very same situla was auctioned by Cahn Auktionen Basel on 23 September 2005, lot 256 with a starting bid of no less than CHF 17,000 plus VAT and buyer's premium (CHF 21,400 including premium and VAT), then the equivalent of circa € 17,700 or US$ 23,000. It is now being offered for considerably less.
Georges Contenau, Manuel d'archéologie orientale, depuis les origines jusqu'à l'époque d'Alexandre, vol. IV (Paris, Picard, 1947), 2167-2176;
Edith Porada, Alt-Iran. Die Kunst in vorislamischer Zeit (Kunst der Welt. Ihre geschichtlichen, soziologischen und religiösen Grundlagen) (Baden-Baden, Holle, 1962) p. 66 and illustration on p. 65 (left);
P.R.S. Moorey, Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1971), p. 270-272;
Simone Bourlard-Collin - Christopher Leon (éditeurs), Arts de l'ancien Iran (Marseille, Musée Borély, 1975), p. 50, no. 155;
Oscar White Muscarella, Bronze and Iron. Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1988), p. 244-248;
Wilfried Seipel (Hrsg.), 7000 Jahre persische Kunst. Meisterwerke aus dem Iranischen Nationalmuseum in Teheran. Eine Ausstellung des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien und des Iranischen Nationalmuseums in Teheran; Kunsthistorisches Museum, 22. November 2000 bis 25. März 2001; Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 10. August 2001 bis 6. Januar 2002 (Mailand, Skira, 2001), p. 98 ff., esp. nos. 22-23.
Circa 9th - 8th century B.C.
Height 13.5 cm.
With Jean-David Cahn (Basel, Switzerland), 2005; previously Belgian private collection F. de W., acquired before 1970.
A few small hairline fissures, some of them closed, and two small holes, else in excellent condition with a scene of marvellous quality and a wonderful patina.