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Achaemenid Bronze Hinged Panel with Lion Hunt

Ancient Near East, Achaemenid Persian Empire, ca. 550 to 330 BCE. A fantastical stamped bronze panel - hinged on one side and with a border full of perforations for attachment - featuring a scene of a nude hunter firing an arrow at a rearing lion. The massive lion dwarfs the man as it rises up on its back legs, its head turned back to snarl at the hunter - look closely and you can see the tip of its nose and mouth complete with fierce fangs. The huge paws and claws of the beast are carefully represented. The hunter faces his prey without fear, with muscular arms and a solemn expression on his simple face. Size: 8.05" W x 6.5" H (20.4 cm x 16.5 cm)

Even before the Achaemenid Empire, hunting was no longer a subsistence strategy for all but the poorest people - the ancient Near East was an established agricultural society. However, people at all levels of society - and especially elites - seem to have delighted in hunting for sport, as well as used hunting as a form of religious ritual. Some hunted animals were prepared and eaten in feasts. Although this likely was not the case with lions, the ability to hunt a lion would have been seen as the ultimate display of power - man triumphing over nature. Artwork depicts kings standing before altars, pouring libations over the bodies of dead game animals. This plaque explicitly to the imagery of the hunt and probably belonged to someone of high status.

Condition: Piece is fragmentary, as shown, with a large loss in part of the upper portion and another small loss to the lower border.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection

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