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Wit & Wine: A New Look at Ancient Iranian Ceramics

February 23, 2002–May 19, 2002

Wit and Wine: A New Look at Ancient Iranian Ceramics, from the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, is the first major exhibition of ancient Iranian ceramics in over a decade.

The exhibition features forty-five extraordinary pieces that illustrate the 5,000-year ceramic tradition that flourished in ancient, pre-Islamic, Iran until 100 BC.

The beautiful, technically sophisticated, and often-amusing ceramics of ancient Iran demonstrate a rich yet little known tradition comparable to pre-Columbian, Chinese and Greek achievements, establishing ancient Iranian pottery as one of the great ceramic traditions.

The jugs, jars, beakers and spouted and shaped vessels in the exhibition were used for holding, pouring and drinking liquids, especially wine. Wit and Wine explores how ancient Iranian potters made and decorated these vessels with high quality of craftsmanship and design, and often with a unique sense of humor. Many pieces are shaped like animals or are painted with animal motifs. Interpretations of wild and domesticated animals show elegant deer, powerful rams and amusing goats. Some pieces were created to serve specific functions, such as cosmetic containers, some vessels were made to look like metal, and others are purely sculptural forms.

Included in the exhibition are an extraordinary ceramic head and neck of a bull, a vessel in the form of a seated camel, a stag head rhyton (drinking horn), a vessel with a deer’s head spout, a vessel in the form of a stag, a spouted vessel in the shape of a bull, and a delightful vessel with two feet.


The exhibition is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, New York. The exhibition is curated by Trudy S. Kawami, Director of Research for the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation. Thanks to exhibition sponsors, the Aletha and Clayton Brodine Museum Fund, and Persian Galleries.

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