Sovereign Power & Sasanian Dinnerware

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You can find this elegant dinnerware at the modest little corner of Sassanian art at the Met. They remind me a little about the discussion in the Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud about decorated vessels. About ornament and ornamental wares, the rabbis expressed very little concern. But these items suggest how so much of the discussion about images and “idolatry” in the ancient and late antique worlds are caught up around sovereign power. The raised figures in the dishes I think are particularly curious, unless, of course, they were always only meant for show, and not actual eating. For a reader of the Babylonian Talmud, they shed some indirect light on the material culture of the time. Reflecting the movement of power and grace, these precious things are lovely to look at.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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