Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Master of the Animals Finial
Work Type
10th-8th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Luristan (Iran)
Iron Age
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
15.4 x 6 x 1.9 cm (6 1/16 x 2 3/8 x 3/4 in.)
Diameter tube inner opening top: 0.3 cm (1/8 in.)
Diameter tube inner opening bottom: 0.5 cm (3/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron,antimony, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is red with spots of green. The surface has been cleaned aggressively, removing the green layers and exposing the underlying red oxide layer in most areas. The incised lines have been damaged by this process. The central pin is lost.

As with the other Luristan finials, the irregular and fluid character of the design elements indicates direct work in the wax model. The wax would have been worked over a central cylindrical core, providing an open area for the tube or pin used to secure the finial to a support (see 2005.78.A-C).

All of the “Master of Animals” finials are heavier and have thicker walls than the finials that depict only animals. The wall thickness of this finial varies from 2 to 4 mm. The incised decorations on the surface appear similar to those of the other “Master of Animals” finials, and it is likely that cold working was used on this one also, although the surface condition makes this difficult to determine.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)

W. C. Burriss Young, Cambridge, MA, bequest; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2002.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of W.C. Burriss Young
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This “master of animals” finial depicts a stylized man with an (attacking?) animal on each side. The man has a bulb-shaped cap, open at the center for insertion of a pin. The man, who is janiform (having the same face on front and back), has disc-like circular eyes and molded brows connected to a prominent triangular nose. His ears are parabolic and prominent, although the end shape is difficult to see because they are in the mouths of the beasts. His mouth is indicated by a small depression, and he has a pointed chin in low relief. The rest of the body consists of a cylinder, with a section of raised bands below the chin and another in the middle, below the animal paws, perhaps indicating the waist. A third set of raised horizontal bands at the lower body of the animals may be connected to them rather than to the human. Although the details are badly worn, on one side of the “neck” bands there is some rope-like patterning, suggesting that at least some of the other bands would have had similar additional details.

The animals are highly stylized; it is not clear what animals are depicted, whether roosters or lions. The animal necks curve outward, beginning with raised bands, probably depicting their paws, and ending in elongated heads with pointed piriform ears and disc-like eyes; the snouts then extend to the mouths, which are open and touching the ears of the man. There are bands encircling the snouts at the mouth end. The animals’ bodies disappear beneath the banded area in the middle of the finial, and then their hindquarters curve out again below. They have spindly, stick-like lower legs, bent outward in a V-shape, with no clear paws gripping the cylinder, as in other examples. Each has a long, thin tail ending in a single spiral. On either side there is a bar separating the legs of the different beasts, continuing the line of the cylindrical man, but open on the sides where the tail would have been. The cylinder ends with one raised band at the bottom.
Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at