A huge Near Eastern Pitcher with Hunting Scene, ca. early 1st millennium BC


Standing over two feet in height, this superb buff colored pitcher has gently sloping shoulders tapering to a flat base, a short neck with a flared rim.  It is buttressed behind by a curved handle with applied pierced discs resembling eyes and an attached zoomorphic spout at the front. The upper third of the body is painted with diagonal linear designs above a banded relief featuring a hunting scene that circles the shoulder of this large jar and emphasizes its great girth.

Possessing great energy and animation, two hunters, one on foot, the other on horseback and both armed with spears, chase seven quadrupeds of various species, including ibex and deer, through triangular mountains. The curved spaces between the animal’s legs echo the circular form of the jar, providing an overall artistic effect of movement and dynamism.

Ancient Near Eastern imagery of animals took many forms, including painted pottery, sculptures in clay and precious metals, and carved stone. Sculptures from the Uruk period show that artists were carefully attuned to the anatomy of domesticated and wild animals, and both naturalistic and abstracted animal portrayals were common throughout ancient history.

Interest in wild animals, and particularly in features such as horns, wings, and claws that were considered especially dangerous or powerful is characteristic of ancient Near Eastern art of all periods, dating back at least to the Neolithic period. Many rituals, such as animal sacrifice, ceremonial hunts, and depictions on sacred or votive objects, centered around the natural world and humans' connection to it.

Control of the natural world, as expressed by fierce animals, was a key aspect of the iconography of kingship. Hunting was one way in which control over the natural world was demonstrated. The royal hunt, in which the king could appear alone, mounted, or in a horse- or donkey-drawn chariot while shooting swiftly running animals with arrows, defined the ruler’s attributes of strength, skill, and mastery of the natural world.

Ref: Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art. “Animals in Ancient Near Eastern Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

Condition: The pitcher is intact and in excellent condition overall.

Dimensions: Height: 24 inches (61 cm), Width: 17 inches (43.18 cm)

Provenance: The Hauge Collection of Ancient & Iranian Art, assembled between 1962 and 1966. Foreign service brothers, Victor and Osborne Hauge, together with their wives Takako and Gratia, assembled their collection of Persian, Japanese, Chinese, and Southeast Asian works of fine and folk art while stationed overseas with the US government after WWII. In consultation with academics and dealers, the Hauges assembled over two decades of what former Freer Gallery of Art director Harold Stern described in 1957 as "without doubt one of the finest private collections in the world". Victor and Takako published Folk Traditions in Japanese Art to coincide with a traveling exhibition held from 1978 at the Cleveland Museum of Art; Japan House Gallery, New York; and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. Much of their collection was donated to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute culminating in an exhibition and published catalog in 2000. The balance of the collection, including this object, was inherited by descent in 2016. With collection label #4389 applied to the inner rim.

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