Bitumen Votive Cup with Akkadian Contesting Scene

£ 6,500.00

A finely sculpted, delicate votive cup, made of bitumen compound, presenting an iconic Akkadian contesting scene in an Iranian-adapted figural and glyphic style. The cup features an extremely elegant silhouette, shaped by its conical body that arises from a ring base with an emphasised edge. Its pleasant, aesthetic appeal, created by its profile, is further accentuated by the body’s sloping walls that gently flare into a wide opening with an everted lip. The Akkadian zoomorphic contesting scene, finely presented in low relief with enormous naturalistic detailing, embraces the cup’s body within a horizontal register. It shows a strong stylistic adherence to traditional Mesopotamian pictorial compositions, where figural representations are presented in paired, asymmetrical groups, each occupying a side of the cup. On the reverse side, two winged bulls, flanked by the central roaring, ramped lion, are presented extending their forelimbs to confront with the lion that stands on its muscular hind legs. On the obverse side, two ramped lions are portrayed balancing their entire body weight on their outstretched hind legs. A moribund goat, with prominent horns, is presented struggling in between the gaping mouths of the two standing lions. All zoomorphic representations are meticulously depicted in a realistic manner, the mane of the lions suggested by numerous neatly arranged, short incisions lines, radiating from their heads. A wonderful testimony of the sophisticated Near Eastern craftsmanship.

Date: 3rd Millennium BC
Provenance: Deceased gentleman’s collection pre-1992, by descent to the family, London & Geneva.
Condition: Very fine, some rubbing off of the rim, otherwise complete and intact. Detailing to the decoration extremely fine.
Product Code: NES-113
Category: Tags: , ,

Bitumen material was utilised by Ancient Susian civilisation since the prehistoric period, marking it a distinctive character of Susian artefacts. The bitumen compound was first employed by the ancestral inhabitants of Susa as a imitation of exotic black stones, with a strong aesthetic impact on styling stone into various shapes of delicate, votive vases decorated with figural and zoomorphic ornaments.  On this vase, each figure’s clearly carved silhouette and muscular details meet the typical representations of bull-men and roaring beasts in the conventional Akkadian practices. On traditional Mesopotamian cylinder seals, images depicting a bull-man or a nude hero confronting rampant, roaring beats are considered to embrace a profound cultural significance, representing the presence and worship of the deified, Akkadian mythological hero, Gilgamesh, about whom legendary literature was first written in Akkadian during the late 2nd millennium BC. Given the strong visual resemblances, presented by the figural expression and the vase’s shape, between this vase and those Early Dynastic Mesopotamian votive vessels, this cup might have been manufactured in Susa, during the chronological range of circa 2900-2350, within which cultural exchange between Mesopotamia and Iran reached its peak.


Dimensions W 4.5 x H 4.5 cm

Near East (Western Asiatic)

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