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Cheekpiece of a horse bridle in the form of a mythical creature, approx. 800-700 BCE

Cheekpiece of a horse bridle in the form of a mythical creature, approx. 800-700 BCE

Cheekpiece of a horse bridle in the form of a mythical creature, approx. 800-700 BCE. Iran; Luristan region. Bronze. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60B17+.

English

A sphinx, with horns and a predator's head at its wing tip, tramples a creature that resembles an antelope. The combination of different animal features, as in the sphinx's wing, is characteristic of Luristan bronzes. What these motifs meant to the people who made these objects we can only guess. Cheekpieces came in pairs, and were connected by a metal rod that served as the bit, passing through the circular hole in each cheekpiece. The mate of this cheekpiece (identical, but a mirror image) is in the Louvre in Paris. It is thought that the people who produced these bronzes were nomads, to whose survival certain animals would have been important. These bronzes display an intimate, firsthand knowledge of animals such as the mouflon (a wild sheep) as well as a striking sense of playfulness.

The motifs found on Luristan bronzes are surprisingly varied when compared to those of other West Asian cultures. Still, many bronzes from the region are decorated with stylized animal forms. What do these object represent? Researchers disagree, but it is possible that the central figure may be a master or mistress of animals who, by extension, controls nature itself. While the use of this motif goes back to at least 3000 to 2000 BCE, here it has been interpreted in a new way.