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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Pin with Head in the Shape of a Lion Mask
Work Type
9th-first half 7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Luristan (Iran)
Find Spot: Middle East, Iran, Western Iran
Iron Age II-III
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
17.3 x 2.3 cm (6 13/16 x 7/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron, arsenic

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina of these pins (164.1972, 1969.190, 1992.256.69, 1992.256.120, and 2004.196) is green with areas of dark green and red. Some burial accretions are present. The decorative top and the rod shape of the pins were probably cast using an indirect lost-wax technique. It is likely that the tapering point of each pin was refined by hammering. Finer details in the decorative tops may also have included cold-work punching, such as the chevron lines in 2004.196. The soft fluid shapes of 164.1972 probably indicate direct work in the wax model.

Henry Lie (submitted 2011)


Recorded Ownership History
Kurt H. Weil, Montclair, NJ (1927-1992), by descent; to Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt, New York (1992-2023), gift; to the Harvard Art Museums.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Professor Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
The head of this slender, tapering pin consists of a flat depiction of a feline’s head, which is more convincingly called a mask. It is very similar to the lion-mask bracelet finials in Harvard’s collection (1969.177.35.1, 1969.177.35.2, 1969.177.36.A, 1969.177.36.B, and 1969.177.36.C), but shaped more carefully. Round eyes are surrounded by wrinkles that also form the nose; the ears are round and concave, the muzzle bears incised lines perhaps indicating the whiskers, and tufts at the side of the head and on the forehead seem to be part of the mane. Only the upper section of the muzzle is represented; the mouth and teeth are not visible. The transition to the round shaft is marked by three raised bands with incised lines.

As with the lion-mask bracelets, no pin with this type of finial has yet been published from a recorded excavation, and so many questions remain about its original context and date. It has been suggested that objects decorated with lion masks were created in the later stages of Luristan art, that is, in the ninth or even seventh centuries BCE (1).


1. P. R. S. Moorey, Catalogue of the Ancient Persian Bronzes in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford, 1971) 195; and O. W. Muscarella, Bronze and Iron: Ancient Near Eastern Artifacts in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1988) 170-71. Compare A. Godard, Les Bronzes du Luristan, Ars Asiatica 17 (Paris, 1931) 71, nos. 138 and 195, pls. 33 and 52; A. Moortgat, Bronzegerät aus Luristan (Berlin, 1932) 11, no. 21, pl. 7; L. Speleers, “Nos nouveaux bronzes perses,” Bulletin des Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire 4 (1932): 56-71, 93-104, and 115-19, esp. 117, fig. 13.b; W. Nagel, Altorientalisches Kunsthandwerk, Berliner Beiträge zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte 5 (Berlin, 1963) 20, no. 51, pl. 27; Moorey 1971 (supra) 195-96, nos. 319-22, pl. 51; id., Ancient Bronzes from Luristan (London, 1974) 32, pl. 13.c; P. Amiet, Collection David-Weill: Les antiquités du Luristan (Paris, 1976) 73 and 79, no. 174; E. De Waele, Bronzes du Luristan et d’Amlash, Publications d’historie de l’art et d’archeologie de l’Université Catholique de Louvain 34 (Louvain-La-Neuve, 1982) 134, no. 193, fig. 111; and N. Engel, Les bronzes du Luristan: Énigmes de l’Iran ancien, IIIe-Ier millénaire av. J.-C., exh. cat., Musée Cernuschi (Paris, 2008) 136, no. 122.

Susanne Ebbinghaus

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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