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Work Gazelle relief

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Iran

Relief à la gazelle

© 2010 Musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

Near Eastern Antiquities

Giraudon Catherine

This tablet sculpted in soft limestone depicts a gazelle passant. The gazelle is an animal often found in art from the Neo-Elamite and Achaemenian periods in Susa. This apparently unfinished relief may have been a sculptor's model.

An uncertain context

This tablet was found at the bottom of a well in the Susa "donjon," the archaeological context of which remains uncertain. In 1932, the archaeologist Roland de Mecquenem discovered numerous remains in the southern part of the Royal City, some of which had been reused in a later construction. It has also been suggested that they were carried there from the Palace of Darius. This tablet may date back to slightly earlier than the Persian period. Whatever the case, this green schist relief is a decorative element of furnishing of court art.

A gracious and realistic depiction

At the base of the relief, a narrow ledge in the stone represents the ground on which a gazelle is walking. It is a male animal shown in profile, with only one horn visible. It is depicted walking calmly toward the right. The mark of a modification in the outline of the figure is visible on the left foreleg, and in the background there are tool marks in the form of grooves and ridges. The tablet is unfinished, for the polishing of this soft limestone appears to have been interrupted. It may therefore have served as a model for the sculptor. Nevertheless, the precision in the details, the delicate modeling of the forms, and the realism of the figure are to be admired.

An animal of the plains

A motif commonly featured on objects from Susa, the gazelle was an animal found in semi-arid plains. The preceding Neo-Elamite period yielded an earthenware pyx decorated with a gazelle passant on each of its sides (Louvre Museum, Sb 4604) and a small schist sculpture of a reclining gazelle with its head resting on its side (Louvre Museum, Sb 5642). Next to this tablet were found two small gazelle heads formerly with inlaid eyes dating from the Achaemenian period - one in gray limestone and the other in lapis lazuli (Louvre Museum, Sb 115 and Sb 3783).


Mecquenem Roland de, Mission de la Délégation en Perse, t. XXX, Paris, 1947, pp. 89-90.

Technical description

  • Relief à la gazelle

    Suse, "Donjon"

  • Calcaire

    H. 13.3 cm; L. 15 cm

  • Fouilles R. de Mecquenem, 1932 , 1932

    Sb 3782

  • 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 307
    Vitrine 3 : Arts de cour des Achéménides (fin VIe - IVe siècle avant J.-C.)

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Additional information about the work

Ekta 4X5 Larrieu 1997