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Recumbent Ibex

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: Achaemenid-Empire
: 6th - 5th century B.C.
: Gold
: H: 5.2 cm - L: 4.1 cm

Ex- British private collection;

Ex- US private collection, 2001.


Complete except for the missing tip of the proper right horn, some small scratches, fractures and dents, a small hole on the chest, a hole below the proper right ear, the backside of the animal is dented.


Typical of the Achaemenid style, the ferocity of these snarling animals has been tempered and restrained by decorative convention. Impressed from a sheet of gold, the fine anatomical details of the ibex are perfectly preserved: the hooves, the outline of the legs and, on the muzzle, the nostrils, the mouth and the bone structure of the skull and of the jaw, as well as the finely modeled hair down the back of the animal’s head, the powerful neck and heavy horns curving backwards with chased ribbing were sculpted in the round, along with the long ears held alert. The bold facial details display wide eyes and arching eyebrows.

There is a hollow interior with remains of bitumen core which were part of the structure which allowed the ornament to be attached to its support: probably a piece of furniture, a container, or a weapon. The ibex is recumbent, with three legs folded under its rectangular curved body. The right foreleg is stretched out. The ibex is modeled in a very naturalistic attitude: it is calmly resting, straightening its neck and slightly turning its head towards the observer. The pose indicates the liveliness of the animal and corresponds well to the function for which the art object was designed.

The ibex was a powerful image in Achaemenid art, associated with fertility, strength, and physical prowess. The image remained a favorite motif for centuries and was often employed for the decoration of armlets or necklets’ finials or handles of vases as the pieces from the Oxus Treasure (5th – 4th century B.C., the British Museum) demonstrate.


7000 Years of Iranian Art, Washington D.C., 1964, nos. 446, 454.

CURTIS J. E., TALLIS N, Forgotten Empire: The world of Ancient Persia, London, 2005, p. 125, no. 127; p. 142, no. 168.

GHIRSHMAN R., The Art of Ancient Iran, From its Origins to the Times of Alexander the Great, New York, 1964, pp. 249-251.

MUSCARELLA O.W., ed., Ancient Art: The Norbert Schimmel Collection, Mainz, 1974, nos. 152, 155, 159, 161.

A Peaceful Kingdom, The Leo Mildenberg Collection of Ancient Animals, Christie’s London, 26 and 27 October, 2004, pp. 272-273, lot. 357.

RUBIN I. E., The Guennol Collection I, New York, 1975, pp. 89-92.


Bull Leapers to Picasso, New York, 2000 (illustrated).

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