30 • Solid Cast and Gold Inlaid Silver Bull

Ancient Bactria, late 3rd millennium BC
Size: 6 cm high, 9 cm long

It is the naturalism of the sculpture that astonishes. From most ancient times schools of sculpture turn up producing works quite different from the artistic norms of the period. For example, in the Dian necropolis of Yunnan Province, China, where the bronze sculptors must have observed tigers tearing bulls to pieces over and over again in order to achieve such dramatic verisimilitude. Bactrian figural sculptures of this type are usually associated with ceremonial axe heads, such as the silver example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, showing a winged man with talons and two raptors’ heads taming a winged lion and a boar. A bronze axe head in the Louvre has a very lifelike boar lying along the shaft of the blade. The function of the rare free-standing animals that are known is uncertain. Probably they were votive figures made to be placed in shrines.

The report of the scientific examination by Striptwist Laboratory is available.