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Dagger chape

© 1997 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Near Eastern Antiquities
Iran

Author(s):
Giraudon Catherine

The decoration of this chape - the mount of a scabbard - is remarkable. It depicts a lively and realistic scene of a lion devouring an ibex. The artist has made the best of the small surface and the trefoil shape imposed by the function of the object. This chape would have originally been part of a ceremonial dagger. In stylistic terms, it reflects the influence of a number of artistic traditions.

The mystery of the object's provenance

The small piece of flat bone has been irregularly rounded. The flat base is pierced in the middle with an elongated mortise. The bone is carved in slight relief. The scene, doubtless inspired by the trefoil shape of the material, is of a lion devouring an ibex, of which only the long neck and the head can be seen.
The object was formerly in a collection that included a number of similar pieces in bone and ivory, brought back from Egypt by Dr. Antoine-Barthélémy Clot Bey. He donated his collection to the Louvre in 1853. The archaeological provenance of the objects remains unclear. Their function has been suggested with reference to illustrations of similar pieces.

The chape of an akinakes

The object is the chape of an akinakes, which was a type of short sword or dagger common in the Middle East. An illustration of such a ceremonial weapon can be seen on one of the reliefs of the Treasury of Persepolis, known as the Scene of the Audience of the Great King. It shows a dignitary wearing such a short sword in a preciously wrought scabbard that ends in a similarly shaped chape, carved with a horse being brought down by a lion.

Various artistic influences

Achaemenid art flourished principally at the imperial court. It is characterized by its eclecticism. As the charter of Darius (Louvre, Sb2789) shows, the empire drew on the best its various peoples had to offer and made skilful use of the riches of each region. The decoration of this chape is an example of Skythian art, in which such designs were common.

Bibliography

Amiet Pierre, "Les Ivoires achéménides de Suse", in Syria, t. XLIX, 1972, pp. 167 et suiv.
Contenau Georges, Manuel d'histoire de l'art, t. IV, 1947, p. 2262.

Technical description

  • Dagger chape

    539-333 BC

    Iran

  • Bone

    H. 30 cm; W. 45 cm; D. 10 cm

  • Antoine-Barthélémy Clot Bey collection

    N 8336 (MN 1376)

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Iran, Persian empire during the Achaemenian period: palace of Darius I to Susa, 6th–5th century BC
    Room 12 a

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Additional information about the work

Photo: Ekta (slide) RMN 97CE15191