Dish with horse and cheetah


Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum
San Francisco, United States

A cheetah stands with regal poise, its paw resting on the mane of a noble steed, who lifts his hoof high and bows his head on this extraordinary dish. Cheetahs were used in Iran and India in much the same way as dogs for hunting game. Persian ceramics often depict hunters and their hunting cheetahs and horses. The fact that the hunter is missing on this dish is not important since the combination of the cheetah and horse effectively symbolize the hunt. The upside-down creature under the horse is perhaps the prey. The expressive enthusiasm and extraordinary attention to detail on this dish set it apart from other polychrome buffwares of the tenth century. Vegetal motifs in relief transform the black horse into a fantastic creature that is decorated all the way down to its hooves. Although there are losses in the area of the cheetah, its colorful patterning can be discerned. The cheetah is related to fantastic creatures depicted in ancient Persian ceramics and metalwork that combine different animal attributes. The rest of the dish's interior is filled with familiar decorative motifs from the repertoire of the buffware potter: abstract geometric, floral, and vegetal motifs, as well as decorative motifs that resemble kufic-style Arabic script. Two dotted borders along the wall and on the rim of the dish frame the highly original composition. This large dish would have been sold as a luxury item and was not intended for everyday use.


  • Title: Dish with horse and cheetah
  • Date Created: 900/1000
  • Location Created: Northeastern Iran; Nishapur
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 5.1 cm x Diam. 35.2 cm
  • Type: Ceramics
  • Medium: Earthenware with underglaze slip and polychrome decoration
  • Credit Line: Museum purchase, B68P7

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