ibex necklace


Achaemenid, Persian, Late 6th-5th century BC
Gold with stone inlays
Height (of ibex) 1.2 inches (3 cm)
Height (total) 5.4 inches (13.7 cm)

Joseph Brummer Collection, New York; Guennol Collection, New York.
Published: A. U. Pope, Masterpieces of Persian Art, [New York: 1945] p. 46, pl. 30C; P. Amandry, “Orfèverie achéménid,” Antike Kunst, I, 1, [1958] p. 13; W.E. Caldwell and M. F. Gyles, The Ancient World, 3rd edition [New York: 1966] p. 168; Ida Ely Rubin (editor), The Guennol Collection – Volume 1 [Metropolitan Museum, New York: 1975] pp. 89-92.
Exhibition History: Iranian Institute, New York, Persian Art, April–May, 1940, p. 319, case 31, no. H; Cleveland Museum of Art, “Exhibition of Gold”, October 1947 – January 1948; Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, “Ancient Art in American Private Collections”, December 1954 – February 1955, no. 119; “The Guennol Collection,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 6 1969 – January 4 1970;
Brooklyn Museum from 1948 until its sale to The Merrin Gallery, Inc.


The ibex was a recurring motif in Achaemenid art. Among the beautiful works that incorporate the animal are objects from the Oxus Treasure, now in the collection of the British Museum. In our superb example, the ibex, a type of wild goat, forms one terminal of a partially preserved necklet, a close-fitting, rigid necklace. The pose of the ibex suggests a flying leap, with its knees tightly tucked and its hind legs stretched out on either side of the torque that would have graced the throat of the wearer. (The fact that many animals are depicted thusly indicates that the pose was a stylistic convention.) The animal turns its head 90 degrees outward to engage the viewer and to show its head in the round.

The sprightly gold creature was embellished with polychrome inlays of various stones, some of which survive. Among the various slots that were intended to receive these bits of colored stone is a triangular one on the forehead. Such a triangular motif is omnipresent on ancient Near Eastern animal representations starting in the third millennium BC. An incised flourish on the animal’s flanks may signify wings, making the image mythological.

A similar, but probably unrelated, gold ibex in the British Museum was the terminal of another necklet. The Brooklyn Museum possesses a (now headless) stone statue of an Egyptian official, Ptah-hotep, wearing a similar piece of jewelry but with the animals’ heads turned towards their bodies. In 1953, John Cooney, then curator of the Egyptian collection at the Brooklyn Museum, characterized Ptah-hotep as an Egyptian who collaborated with Egypt’s Persian conquerors during the “Persian Period.” Ptah-hotep seems to have been richly rewarded with a choice piece of Achaemenid luxury goods.