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Jeton avec représentation de scène galante

© Photo RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities

Kalensky Patricia

This tiny precious object showing the meeting of a pair of lovers, bears witness to an art that had its source in southeast Iran and was quite recently brought to light by Pierre Amiet, then curator of Oriental Antiquities at the Louvre.

A precious object

Probably an ornament, even if its real destination is still unknown, this precious little token made of lapis lazuli takes the form of a thick disc, pierced through the side, and has a carved relief on both faces. The edge is decorated with two torsades with three strands at each end of the hole, where the remains of a heavily corroded copper thread or wire are visible.

A love scene

A couple appears on each side of the disc in a composition that fits into the rounded shape. It would seem to be a love scene. On the front a woman with a pointed nose is sitting on a concave seat, on the left. Her hair is drawn up in a double chignon and tied with two ribbons. Her breasts are bare and she is wearing a mid-length skirt covered with irregular hatching, reminiscent of a kaunakes. This fleecy garment, often recorded in Mesopotamia, was depicted in this period with flakes to suggest the tufts of wool. The woman seems to be reaching towards a figure kneeling before her, apparently naked, or rather dressed in a smooth skirt leaving his chest bare; a braid falls straight down under his ear and a mass of hair tumbles down his back. The man seems to be offering a conical vase to the lady, who is placed under the crescent moon and a star in the shape of a flower. On the other side, the scene is reversed. The stars are still at the top of the scene, but the man is sitting on a concave throne while the woman, with her hair falling loose, is kneeling before him. Her legs are wrapped in her skirt and she is offering him a cornet-shaped cup.

An example of trans-Elamite art

This piece does not come from archaeological excavations, but can nonetheless be associated with works from southeast Iran and, more particularly, from the Kerman region. It may date to the latter half of the 3rd millennium, at a time when the major city of Susa was in decline, while several regions of Iran were flourishing, especially through crafts and long-distance trade. This is the so-called trans-Elamite civilization, which expanded in the regions outside Elam, but remained culturally linked to it. There is an affinity in iconography and style among objects such as stamps and cylinder seals, stone vases, and more particularly a long copper pin with a decoration similar to that of the little token, also in the Louvre.
These men were not just merchants involved in the long-distance trade in semi-precious stones such as the lapis lazuli used here; they were also craftsmen specialized in metalworking and jewelry, who revived iconographic traditions, illustrating the originality of their mountain background.

Technical description

  • Jeton avec représentation de scène galante

  • Lapis lazuli

    Diam. 2.6 cm; D. 1 cm

  • Don Mohsène Foroughi, 1975 , 1975

    AO 26073

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Iran and Bactria
    Room 305
    Vitrine 1 : Tepe Giyan IV et III. Iran du sud-est : province de Kerman et désert de Lut.

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