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At the Crossroads: Ancient Middle Eastern & Islamic Art

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Master of Animals Finial

799 BCE - 700 BCE
7 5/16 x 2 13/16 x 7/8 in. (18.6 x 7.1 x 2.3 cm)

Unknown, Iranian
Iranian

Object Type: Metalwork
Medium and Support: Bronze
Credit Line: Gift of Henry Hirschland
Accession Number: 2007.35
Location: Currently on view
Link to this object

Theories abound as to the meaning, symbolism, and function of these ancient bronze finials that represent the “Master of Animals,” one of the most important motifs in ancient Middle Eastern art. The central figure is a human male, his outstretched arms grasping the neck of long-snouted two-headed beasts with the beaks of eagles and round haunches with clawed feet. The figure may represent Gilgamesh, the superhuman hero of Mesopotamian mythology, or Sraosha, the early Iranian god of justice. What seems clear, though, is that this finial symbolizes humankind’s dominion over the predatory forces of nature.
-- from "Art at the Crossroads" brochure

Provenance
Purchased in Germany before 1938; from those purchasers to their son, Henry Hirschland, Canandaigua, NY; his gift to the Gallery in 2007

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