A Parthian Terracotta Plaque Depicting a Reclining Couple

£ 600.00

A finely modelled terracotta plaque depicting a Parthian couple. The male figure is presented reclining on a couch, which is outlined by ornamented borders, whilst the richly-robed and jewelled female figure is portrayed standing beside him.

The male figure wears a typical Parthian pyramidal cap and a tunic with tight sleeves, his beaded necklace echoes well with his belt, which is further decorated with neatly arranged wedge-shaped modelling. His facial features are executed in the iconic Parthian mannerism, including deep-grooved, arched eyebrows, exaggerated almond-shaped eyes and a pyramidal nose. His moustache is naturalistically rendered through two arched ridges, with incisions below representing his beard. His left arm is supported by the armrest of the couch, and he is presented holding a bowl that is reminiscent of a traditional Assyrian footless and handless phiale (a type of bronze vessel that was used for libation or during elite banquets). A rosette bracelet, seems to be indented and decorating his wrist.

The female figure is portrayed standing frontally, wearing a richly ornamented garment with incisions indicating the deep folds of her drapery. Her beaded necklace and a diadem suggest she might have ranked as a Parthian aristocracy. 

The reverse of the piece is plain and un-modelled.

Date: Circa 247 BC - AD 224
Condition: Fine conditions, with signs of ageing to the surface. The piece has been mounted on a custom-made stand for display


Stone-sculpted and terracotta-modelled glyphic figurines or plaques, depicting an intimate couple reclining on a couch, were widely known as an Etruscan creative innovation under the oriental impacts of the early Iron Age period. However, as with most of the early Classical Etruscan and Greek art genres that were inspired from ancient Near Eastern prototypes, motifs of a reclining couple might also have derived from the early Mesopotamian banqueting scenes shown on cylinder seals. This hybrid example, not only presents an adherence to an Etruscan stereotyped arrangement with the figures’ positions and poses, but also embraces a typical Mesopotamian enigma, suggested by the bronze libation phiale held in the male figure’s hand.

Within the genre of terracotta plaques depicting reclining couples, occasional examples dressed in typical Parthian attire have survived. Among those, examples are either presented as male or female figures in solo. Thus, presenting a Parthian-dressed couple, further contributes to this piece’s uniqueness and rarity.

Weight 600 g
Dimensions W 14.3 x H 15.2 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


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