Ancient Near East, northwestern Iran, Luristan, ca. 1000 to 600 BCE. A gorgeous pair of bronze cheek pieces for a horse and the adjoining copper fitting, cast via the lost wax (cire perdue) process. Each cheek piece aptly depicts a striding horse - presented in profile, with a lean but strong body and nice delineation of its head, legs, and long tail. Beyond this are wonderfully detailed eyes, ears, mane, and bridle. There is a large, intended perforation though each horse's middle for sliding into the copper fitting that has spiraled termini, and loops above for suspension. The exterior surfaces on both the obverse and reverse have developed lovely green and azurite patina. Size: cheek pieces & fitting measure 7.875" W x 3.375" H (20 cm x 8.6 cm); 5.5" H (14 cm) on included custom stand.
The affluent group in Luristan society that patronized the metalworking industry and purchased decorative items like this were nomadic horsemen. They would travel into towns and from there purchase bronze and iron objects from craftsmen. Although these horsemen were pre-literate, we know from the records of the Elamites and other southern neighbors that they were mercenaries in the constant warfare between the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, and Elamites. When they died, they were buried in rock-covered tombs with coveted metal possessions like these.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Neil Phillips collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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