Ceremonial bowl with Zoroastrian themes. Made in Burma, c 1875-1900. Silver. The bowl depicts scenes of victories of Zoroastrian rulers from ancient Persia, where the religion originated. On one side is shown the triumph of Persian king Darius (550 - 486 BC) over a rival, and nearby is the winged disc which is associated with Zoroastrianism's supreme deity. On the other side is a Persian king humbling a defeated Roman ruler. Both scenes are based on ancient Persian reliefs of these events, so the bowl's maker must have been familiar with them from drawings, photographs, or other artworks. The bowl would have been used in Zoroastrian ceremonies honoring deceased relatives.

Fleeing Islamic persecution that began with the Muslim conquest of Persia, the Zoroastrians there began migrating to western India where they were often known as Parsis (the Persians). The Parsis in Mumbai — then Bombay — became leaders in banking and commerce, and sometimes sent relatives and colleagues to far-off cities as business representatives.

One city with a Paris business community in the 19th century was Rangoon, the capital of Burma. This bowl was made there, as indicated by the peacock design on the bottom (the peacock is one of Burma's national symbols) and features such as the ring of petals around the lower part of the bowl. This bowl is thought to have been commissioned by a member of a well-to-do member of the Parsi community there.

On display at San Francisco's Asian Art Museum. Acquired 2009, made possible by the Zarthosti Anjuman of Northern California, Rati Forbes, Betty N Alberts, and members of the board of the Society for Asian Art in honor of Past President Nazneen Spliedt.


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datetime_original2018-07-08 16:06:18
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