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Ceremonial Bowl with Zoroastrian Themes, approx. 1875

Ceremonial bowl with Zoroastrian themes, 1875

Ceremonial bowl with Zoroastrian themes, 1875. Iran. Silver alloy with zinc and copper. Acquisition made possible by the Zarthosti Anjuman of Northern California, Rati Forbes, Betty N. Alberts, and members of the board of the Society for Asian Art in honor of Past President Nazneen Spliedt, 2009.25.

The Zoroastrian religion originated in ancient Iran (Persia). On this bowl are scenes of victories of Zoroastrian rulers from ancient Persian history. On one side is shown the triumph of the Emperor Darius (550-486 BCE) over a rival. Nearby is the winged disc, a symbol associated with the Zoroastrian supreme deity. On the other side is a later Persian emperor humbling a defeated Roman ruler. Both scenes are based on ancient Persian sculptured reliefs of these events, which the maker of the bowl must have seen in drawings, photographs, or other artworks.

Many centuries ago some Zoroastrians migrated to western India, where they were often known as Parsis, that is, "Persians." Many Parsis in Mumbai (then Bombay) became leaders in banking and commerce, and sometimes sent family members and colleagues to far-off cities as business representatives.

One city with an immigrant Parsi business community in the nineteenth century was Rangoon, the capital of Burma. This bowl was made in Burma, as is indicated by the peacock design on the bottom and features such as the lotus petals around the lower part of the bowl. It was used in Zoroastrian ceremonies honoring deceased relatives, and is thought to have been commissioned by a member of a well-to-do Parsi family.

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