Elamite Agate Figurine of a Feline

Near Eastern · Elamite, ca. 12th century B.C.




L: 5.6 cm





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This small figure of an animal is remarkable in both the beauty of the hard stone and extraordinary workmanship. The natural appearance of the banded agate is combined with a high polish that makes the object extremely attractive. The composition of the recumbent animal is most typical for the early stage of the animalistic art of the Ancient Near East. The animal is represented resting quietly on the ground: the hind and forelegs are tucked under the body, the tail curls over the right flank, the big head looking straight ahead. The figure is compact in shape, the details of the face are incised, and especially prominent are the big almond eyes, where the pupils are also indicated. Although the muscle structure is rendered in a generalized manner based on the smooth modeling of the hard stone, the combination of the rounded ears, thick neck, and broad muzzle suggests that the animal is a feline. The absence of the mane may indicate a lioness. The pattern of the stone may refer to the animal’s skin. However, it is not certain as the stone could have been chosen for its own qualities. The contrasting dark brown and white bands along the body and collar triangle on the chest look very natural. When the piece is seen from its left side, the image appears even more naturalistic: the layers of white (shaped like a circle) and dark (dot in the middle) stone reproduce the eye and the pupil. Objects worked in banded agate were prized in antiquity for their intricate natural patterns and highly polished quality. Figurines of animals and beads, sometimes with dedicatory inscriptions, served as votive offerings to the statues of deities. The present piece is bored through the shoulders to either be strung as an amulet or affixed to another object.

The best comparisons to the present piece are the Elamite recumbent lion from the Louvre and a bull (formerly in the renowned collection of ancient animals of Leo Mildenberg) made of banded agate.


The piece is entirely preserved except for the bro-ken ear points, the paws of the forelegs, and part of the right hind leg; few scratches, cracks, and chips, surface damage on the thigh of the left hind leg. The piece is pierced through the shoulders.


Art market, prior to the mid-1980s;

Ex- Ishiguro collection, Japan;

Christie’s New York, 13 June 2000, lot 448;

UK art market;

Ex-US private collection acquired in 2001.


Christie’s New York, 13 June 2000, lot 448.


HARPER P. O., ARUZ J., TALLON F., The Royal City of Susa: Ancient Near Eastern Treasures from the Louvre, New York, 1992, pp. 152-153, no. 99.

KOZLOFF A. P., MITTEN G. D., SGUAITAMATTI M., More Animals from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Mainz/Rhein, 1986, pp. 6-7, no. II, 7.
A Peaceful Kingdom, The Leo Mildenberg Collec-tion of Ancient Animals, Christie’s London, 26-27 October 2004, lot 165.