This exquisite applique of a lamassu, together with the following lot, was exhibited at the Musée Cernuschi, Paris, in 1948, as part of a magnificent find of Achaemenid gold objects, comprising twenty-three pieces reputedly found together in Hamedan, Iran, in 1920.
Greek travellers and historians, such as Diodorus Siculus and Quintus Curtius, told staggering stories of the lavish use of gold in Achaemenid Persia, both for personal adornments and for court furniture. According to Diodorus Siculus, Alexander the Great plundered the palace buildings of Persepolis for a treasure of precious metals estimated to be almost 2500 tons (Bibliotheca Historica 17.71.1-6). The representations of jewellery, such as necklaces, armlets and vessels found on the Persepolis reliefs confirm the likelihood of these accounts.
The appliques were reputedly found along with two gold inscription plaques, which establish the approximate dating to the reign of Artaxerxes II, the Achaemenid King of Persia who reigned 404–359 B.C. Although the exact use of the appliques cannot be determined, these motifs may have been applied to furniture, such as doors or shields. The applique would have been affixed by means of narrow tongues along the edges, which were used to slot the piece in to the final product. This applique is closely related to the imposing winged figures which guard the 'Gate of All Nations' at the top of the main stairway to the Persepolis platform, see no. 606 in P. Amiet, Art of the Ancient Near East, New York, 1980. These figures are named lamassu and refer to a protective deity with an apotropaic function, which would support their probable use as decoration on doors. The pose of the lamassu is characteristic of Achaemenid art and is generally interpreted as a gesture of adoration.