Near Eastern Copper bowl with a procession of animals
Period: Sumerian or Elamite, early 3rd Millennium B.C.
Dimensions: Height: 9.2 cm, Diameter: 16.2 cm (max.)
Ex-M. de Sancey Collection, Switzerland.
Slightly crackled at the edge, the external surface has been cleaned and is in a remarkable state of preservation. The interior metal is covered with a thick, rough green patina.
On a technical note, this piece was cast in a mold; the relief animals could have been made separately and soldered onto the surface of the cup. According to the species represented, they come from the same model; the small differences between them depend on the ?nal incisions of the bronzesmith. The container is whole, although slightly cracked at the edge. The external surface has been cleaned and is in a remarkable state of preservation – all the details of the decoration are visible – while the interior metal is covered with a thick, rough green patina. The body of the vessel suffered some pressure, therefore the edge is elliptical rather than circular. Arsenical copper objects (containers, but also statuettes) are quite common from as far back as the 4th millennium B.C.: this alloy has a lower melting point and is more ?uid than copper or bronze. It is thus frequently employed for the making of precisely detailed molded objects.
The bowl has an impressive weight and the thickness of the metal is important. It was perfectly hemispherical and is placed on a small disc base that balances the piece. The edge is ?at and cut straight across. The decoration is organized in two stacked friezes of animals going towards the right (upper frieze) and towards the left (lower frieze) : the upper register is composed of three bulls separated by lions, while the lower register contains two ibexes alternating with spotted panthers.
The size of this piece, its artistic merit, and the selected material as well as the subject (oxen and ibexes were important animals in Mesopotamian economy, while the wild beasts were the favorite targets of hunters) indicate that it belonged to a temple treasure or to the display plate of a Mesopotamian dignitary. This shape (with or without a foot) is well known in Mesopotamia throughout the third millennium; however, decorated examples with animal friezes are very rare and are never preserved as well as this one.
MÜLLER-KARPE M., Metallgefässe im Iraq I (Von den Anfängen bis zur Akkad-Zeit), Stuttgart, 1993, p. 86 ss. (forme 11, I Bodenschale),pp. 235-237 n. 1588, pl. 142.
VAN ESS M. – PEDDE F., Uruk, Kleinfunde II, Mainz on Rhine, 1992, p. 18, n. 109, pl. 19.