Rachel Wood details how a 3D copy of a Sasanian Persian gold cup was made for the Imagining the Divine exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum.
The Khosro Cup, also known as the Cup of Solomon, is a stunning and intricate Sasanian Persian vessel made of gold, garnets, rock crystal, and glass. It probably dates to the sixth century AD, in the later period of Sasanian rule. At the centre is an enthroned king, most likely Khosro I (r.531-579), under whose reign the Sasanian empire underwent its last great flourishing of prosperity and cultural attainment before its collapse in the mid seventh century.
The Cup is one of the star objects in the Cabinet des Médailles – the department of coins, medals, and antiques in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), arriving in the collection among the many precious objects and antiquities from the Abbey of St Denis given to the Cabinet des Médailles after the French Revolution.
Although perhaps the most famous Sasanian artefact to those familiar with the Sasanian Empire, and notable among the Cabinet’s collection, this intricate and unparalleled work of art has never had the wider exposure it deserves. Since it is far too precious and fragile to go on tour to other museums, the director of the Département des Monnaies, médailles et antiques, Dr Frédérique Duyrat, offered us the opportunity to make a 3D scan of the Cup.
By the happy coincidence of this offer, the interests of the Empires of Faith research project and its upcoming exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, as well as generous funding from the Lorne Thyssen Research Fund for Ancient World Topics at Wolfson College, Oxford, and the Soudavar Memorial Foundation, we were able to undertake this ambitious task.
After the 3D scanning of the Khosro Cup, the resulting digital file was used to create a 3D printed copy of the Cup, that will be displayed as part of the forthcoming exhibition Imagining the Divine: art and the rise of world religions at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 19th October 2017 to 18th February 2018. The chance to see the Khosro Cup, albeit a facsimile, is an even more rare opportunity at the moment because the original is hidden away safely in storage until at least 2020 while the Cabinet des Médailles undergoes renovation work.
Part of the appeal of this project is being able to try out the latest advancements in 3D scanning and printing technologies. Watch this space for three short videos about the Khosro Cup Replication Project, coming soon!
Episode One: Digitisation
What is the Khosro Cup, and why make a copy of it?
Featuring Dr Frédérique Duyrat, Director of the Department of Coins, Medals, and Antiques at the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Episode Two: Manufacture
How do you go about making a copy of an ancient object made of multiple materials? How was rock crystal carved in antiquity?
Featuring Dr Elise Morero of the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford.
Episode Three: Colours and Copies
Watch to see the final stages of creating the Khosro Cup replica, as Anna Nestrup of Cliveden Conservation adds the crucial finishing touches to the 3D printed model.
And that’s not all: you can see the coloured 3D scan of the Khosro Cup on Sketchfab
We are very grateful to all those who made this project possible, including:
- The Bibliothèque nationale de France, especially Dr Frédérique Duyrat and Mathilde Avisseau-Broustet.
- The Soudavar Memorial Foundation
- The Lorne Thyssen Fund for Ancient World Topics at Wolfson College, Oxford
- Creaform Ltd
- ThinkSee3D Ltd
- Industrial Plastic Fabrications Ltd
- Cliveden Conservation Ltd