Art Talk: What Can We Learn from an Ancient Silver Fragment?

December 1, 2020
Index Magazine

Art Talk: What Can We Learn from an Ancient Silver Fragment?

Left: Metalsmith Adam Whitney created a modern reconstruction (at left) of a fourth-century BCE fragment of a deer (right). Right: This X-radiographed image of the ancient object reveals hammer marks, which offer clues about its making.

Conservator Angela Chang explores what we can learn from a fragment, which probably comes from an ancient silver drinking vessel called a rhyton. Working with metalsmith Adam Whitney to develop a modern metal reconstruction, Chang transports us back in time and explains the masterful silversmithing involved in the manufacture of this ancient object.

This Art Talk is related to a research project co-authored by Katherine Eremin, the Patricia Cornwell Senior Conservation Scientist in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, and metalsmith Adam Whitney.

The fragment was featured in the 2018–19 special exhibition Animal-Shaped Vessels from the Ancient World: Feasting with Gods, Heroes, and Kings.

This video is part of our Art Talk series, in which our team of curators, conservators, fellows, and graduate students shares short, informal videos that offer an up-close look at works from our collections.  

Angela Chang, Conservator of Objects and Sculpture and Assistant Director, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies

Work Explored:
Fragmentary forepart of a deer, perhaps from a rhyton, Iran, Achaemenid, 4th century BCE or later. Silver. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund, 1953.102.