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Cylinder Seal with King Holding Two Lions, c. 5th century B.C. (reign of Darius)


Cylinder seals were used for over 3,000 years in the ancient Near East to certify and formalize documents written on clay tablets. Rolled over the clay while still soft, leaving impressions of their designs and inscriptions, they functioned much like a signature of the owner, whose name is often recorded in the cylinder’s cuneiform inscription.

This seal shows the Persian bearded king holding lions aloft by their hind legs, standing atop a pair of human-headed sphinxes. On either side is an archer with a bow and arrows in his hands, standing on a winged griffin. The image of the king holding an upended lion is a central motif in the royal art of the Achaemenid dynasty that ruled Iran in the 6th-

4th centuries b.c. Its extensive empire, covering virtually the entire Near East from Egypt to the borders of India, was overthrown by Alexander the Great.



Private collection, Syria.

Private collection, Lebanon, acquired between 1962 and 1968;

(art dealer, New Jersey) by 1981;

(Ward & Company Fine Art, Inc., New York), by 2001;

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2001.

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