A Sassanian bas-relief at Nakshi-Roustam with Ker Porter sketching it


This watercolour shows one of the four bas-reliefs at Naqsh-e Rustam (‘Throne of Rustam’), the ancient necropolis near Persepolis where several Persian kings are buried. The reliefs date to the 3rd century CE and are a product of the Sassanian Empire. This particular example shows the capture of the Roman Emperor Valerian (who is standing) by Shapur I (on horseback) in 260 CE following the humiliating defeat of the Roman army at Edessa.

In his drawing, Sir Robert Ker Porter recorded ‘a large open scroll, on which an inscription is written in Pehlivi characters, very full, but much defaced. It consists of seventy-eight lines. I copied two or three of them, to preserve a memorandum of the writing; and have to lament that it was not in my power to accomplish more’ (Travels, p. 541). He was not much impressed by the figures, however, judging them ‘heavy and ill-proportioned’. The artist himself, in military attire, is shown sketching the ornament.

Full title:
A Sassanian bas-relief at Nakshi-Roustam with Ker Porter sketching it
June 1818
Watercolour / View
Sir Robert Ker Porter
© British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Add. MS 14758, f.69

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Christopher Wright
Antiquarianism, Science and nature

Sir Robert Ker Porter's accounts of his travels in the Middle East gave a glimpse into a region that was largely unknown to most Europeans. His original watercolours provide a compelling visual source and are both descriptive of their settings and beautiful works of art in their own right. Christopher Wright recounts Porter's journey into an unfamiliar and enchanting landscape.

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