Some years ago, at the Asian Art Museum (AAM) in San Francisco, I saw this Cheekpiece of a horse bridle in the form of a fantastic creature, 1000 to 650 BCE, Iran, bronze .
I was fascinated after reading a book about it. It said that cheekpiece often came in pairs, and the other cheekpiece of this pair is in the Louvre in Paris. Some time later, when I visited the Louvre, I found the other one. Although I was excited to have seen them both, this is what I thought: like the sixth maiden in the British Museum, when will they meet again? I am also lucky to have seen the five maidens in Athens as well as the sixth one in the British Museum. In fact, I had written about these art objects in my other blogs. If you are interested, please check them out.
The Porch of the Caryatids–The famous “Porch of the Maidens” with six draped female figures as supporting columns, is missing one, which is now in the British Museum. These five shown in this picture are copies only. The original five are now in the Acropolis Museum. The Greeks hope that the sixth missing maiden would eventually be reunited with the rest in the Acropolis.
Here’s the description of the piece in AAM from the emuseum link below:
“Label: 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) below left, 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, like the one seen above right, are decorated with stylized animal forms. In these two objects a central figure grasps the throats of what appear to be open-beaked birds, while just below, the heads of predatory birds spring from either side of the central figure. Three faces appear along the central shaft. On one finial the middle face can also be read as a chest and shoulders. What do these objects 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. “