Silver Gilt Bowl with Hunting Scenes (Swat Bowl),
Possibly of Hephthalite, Huna or Kidarite cavalry
British Museum. Museum number: 1963,1210.11 Description:
Silver bowl; thick-walled; cast; inscription; decorated exterior with profile male bust on the central medallion, surrounded by four hunters (the one on the left being identical to the central bust), two wearing crowns similar to last Kidarite coins; originally gilt.
Findspot: Found/Acquired: Swat, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan
Materials: silver, gold
Technique: gilded, cast
Diameter: 6 inches
Diameter: 15.7 centimetres
Height: 5.7 centimetres
Weight: 819.3 grammes
Volume: 630 millilitres
Referenced as Illustration 117, p.134 in Tamara Talbot Rice, Ancient Arts of Central Asia, 1965
117 In their metal work the Bactrians looked both to India and the West for inspiration. This silver bowl from north-west India shows that Persia provided both the subject and the style. Vessels such as these may well have served as models for Daghestan artists working a thousand years later (III. 248). Fifth-sixth century
117 Silver gilt bowl: hunting scenes. North-west India, fifth-sixth century. L. 6½″ (16.0).
It is now evident that many of the fine metal objects which have been accepted as Sassanian are in fact Bactrian. They are as splendid in their own way as the coins and must have been widely admired in their own day for they appear to have been exported far afield. Bactria's metal workers are seen at their most characteristic in objects such as vessels (Ill. 117, 118, 119). These were so much admired by their contemporaries that even Chinese artists of the Han period, who were assuredly among the finest artists of their time, were enchanted by them and often let themselves be influenced by them (Ill. 122). Many Bactrian vessels have been found in western Russia. A bronze phalera which comes from there is of particular interest. It displays the head of a youth executed in high relief work and finished off by chasing and gilding. C. H. Trevers considers it to be a copy of Praxiteles' famous statue of Dionysus the head of which, she thinks was chosen in the first half of the second century to appear on the Bactrian coin of Agathocles. This phalera was not unique. Others (Ill. 120) were also made in two sections held together by bronze studs, and also display Hellenistic heads often finished off in the same way. Many of the earlier Bactrian works were doubtless produced by Greeks for Greeks, but it cannot have taken long before local patrons, the first of whom may well have been drawn into the Greek orbit as a result of intermarriage, started to commission works in the Greek style for their own use. After that it can surely have been only a matter of years before the growing demand led native artists to work in the Hellenistic manner.