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Ancient Near Eastern Art PowerPoint Imagery by William V. Ganis, PhD With notes from Gardner's Art Through the Ages Sumerian Art Sumerian Art • SUMER The Sumerians occupied the lower valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now southern Iraq. They established urban communities and developed the earliest known writing system. Beginning around 3200 BCE, the Sumerians constructed ziggurats and produced small-scale sculptures and objects carved from alabaster, gypsum, lapis lazuli, limestone, marble, and wood. Details and decorative elements were often inlaid using shell, lapis lazuli, red limestone, black limestone, and gold. Sumerian Art • The first city-states: Ancient Sumer was not a unified nation but was made up of a dozen or so independent city-states. Each was thought to be under the protection of a different Mesopotamian deity. City planning and religion: The Sumerian city plan reflected the central role of the local god in the daily life of the of he city-states occupants. The temple was not only the focus of local religious practice but also an administrative and economic center. White Temple and ziggurat Uruk (modern Warka) Iraq ca. 3,200-3,000 B.C.E. mud brick • Sumerian Art Uruk's White Temple: The Sumerians built towering stepped platforms of mud bricks called ziggurats, with a temple on the summit. Usually only the foundations of early Mesopotamian temples can be recognized. The White Temple is a rare exception. The White Temple at Uruk was probably dedicated to Anu, the sky god. It has a central hall (cella) with a stepped altar where the Sumerian priests would await the apparition of the deity. White Temple and ziggurat Uruk (modern Warka) Iraq ca. 3,200-3,000 B.C.E. mud brick RECOVERED Female head (possibly Inanna) from Uruk (modern Warka) Iraq ca. 3,200-3,000 B.C.E. marble approximately 8 in. high Sumerian Art • A marble-and-gold Inanna?: A lifelike head of a woman carved from imported white marble originally had inlaid eyes and eyebrows and other attachments such as a wig, probably of gold leaf. RECOVERED Warka Vase from Uruk (modern Warka) Iraq ca. 3,200-3,000 B.C.E. alabaster approximately 3 ft. high Sumerian Art • Gifts for a goddess: A vase divided into three registers shows animals, a procession of naked men, and a "priest-king" bringing offerings to a female priestess or goddess. • In this oldest known example of Sumerian narrative art, the sculptor divided the tall stone vase's reliefs into registers, a significant break with the haphazard figure placement found in earlier art. Warka Vase from Uruk (modern Warka) Iraq ca. 3,200-3,000 B.C.E. alabaster approximately 3 ft. high Sumerian Art Stele of the Vultures Sumerian Art • The city-states of ancient Sumer were often at war with one another, and warfare is the theme of the so-called Stele of the Vultures from Girsu . A stele is a carved stone slab erected to commemorated a historical event or, in some other cultures, to mark a grave. • Cuneiform inscriptions on this stele describe the victory of Eannatum of Lagash over the city of Umma. This fragment shows Eannatum leading his army into battle. The artist depicted the king larger than his soldiers. Stele of vultures SOME MISSING Statuettes of worhippers from Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar) Iraq ca. 2,700 B.C.E. gypsum, shell, black limestone tallest 30 in. high Sumerian Art • Eshnunna's perpetual worshippers: Statuettes show standing men and women of varying size with large eyes and tiny hands clasped in a gesture of prayer or holding a small beaker. The beakers the figures hold were used to pour libations in honor of the gods. Another statuette shows the seated figure of the court singer Urnanshe in prayer. Sumerian Art Urnanshe: Court Singer - another group of Sumerian votive statuettes comes from the Temple of Ishtar at Mari. Of particular interest is the figure of Urnanshe depicted beardless but with straight hair to his waist, suggesting he was a eunuch. Statuettes of worhippers from Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar) Iraq ca. 2,700 B.C.E. gypsum, shell, black limestone tallest 30 in. high Statuettes of worhippers from Eshnunna (modern Tell Asmar) Iraq ca. 2,700 B.CE. gypsum, shell, black limestone tallest 30 in. high Sumerian Art • The oversized eyes probably symbolized the perpetual wakefulness of these substitute worshipers offering prayers to the deity. Sumerian Art • War and peace: The spoils of war as well as farming and trade brought considerable wealth to some of the city-states of ancient Sumer. Standard of Ur from Tomb 779, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,600 B.C.E. wood, shell, lapis lazuli, red limestone approximately 8 x 19 in. Sumerian • Using a mosaic-like technique, this Sumerian artist depicted a battlefield victory in three registers. In the top band, soldiers present bound captives to a kinglike figure who is larger than everyone else. • The feast on the peace side may be a victory celebration. The narrative again reads from bottom to top, and the size of the figures varies with their importance in Sumerian society. Standard of Ur (war side) from Tomb 779, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,600 B.C.E. wood, shell, lapis lazuli, red limestone approximately 8 x 19 in. Standard of Ur (peace side) from Tomb 779, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,600 B.C.E. wood, shell, lapis lazuli, red limestone approximately 8 x 19 in. Bull-headed lyre from Tomb 789, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) ca. 2,600 B.C.E. wood, gold leaf, lapis lazuli approximately 65 in. high Sumerian Art • A bearded bull's head decorates the sound box of a Sumerian lyre. Other imaginary composite creatures decorate a panel on the sound box itself. • This lyre from a royal grave at Ur is adorned with a bearded bull's head of gold leaf and lapis lazuli, and inlaid figures of a Gilgamesh like hero and animals acting out scenes of uncertain significance. Bull-headed lyre from Tomb 789, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) ca. 2,600 B.C.E. wood, gold leaf, lapis lazuli approximately 65 in. high Ram in a thicket from Tomb 789, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,600 B.C.E. gold, silver, lapis lazuli, copper, shell, red limestone, bitumen 42.6 cm. high Ram in a thicket from Tomb 789, Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,600 B.C.E. gold, silver, lapis lazuli, copper, shell, red limestone, bitumen 42.6 cm. high MANY MISSING Cylinder seals ca. 2,600-2,000 B.C.E. approximately 2 in. high Cylinder seal from the tomb of Pu-abi Royal Cemetery Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,600 B.C.E. approximately 2 in. high Sumerian Art • A man and a woman sit and drink from beakers in a banquet scene carved in miniature on a cylinder seal. • Seals were widely used in Mesopotamia to identify and secure goods. Artists incised designs into stone cylinders and then rolled them over clay to produce minature artworks like this banquet scene. Akkadian Art Akkadian Art • AKKAD AND THE THIRD DYNASTY OF UR The first near eastern kings: In 2334 B.C., Sumeria came under the domination of the Semitic ruler Sargon, whose city, Akkad, gave its name to the language and the culture. The art of this time focuses on exhibiting the status and power of male rulers. Their victories in war and laws are recorded on upright stone slabs. MISSING Head of an Akkadian ruler from Ninevah (modern Kuyunjik) Iraq ca. 2,250-2,200 B.C.E. copper 14 3/8 in. high Akkadian Art • A life-size, hollow-cast copper head with inlaid eyes (now lost) and a curly beard show a high level of skill in metalworking. • The sculptor of this first known life-size hallow-cast head captured the distinctive features of the ruler while also displaying a keen sense of abstract pattern. Head was vandalized in antiquity. Victory stele of Naram-Sin from Susa, Iran ca. 2,254-2,218 B.C.E. sandstone 79 in. high Akkadian Art • A god-king crushes an enemy: A stone marker carved in relief commemorates the victory of a king and his army in the wooded Iranian mountains. • To commemorate his coquest of Lullubi, Naram-Sin set up the stele showing him leading his army up a mountain. The sculptor staggered the fiugres, abandoning the traditional register format. Victory stele of Naram-Sin from Susa, Iran ca. 2,254-2,218 B.C.E. sandstone 79 in. high Neo-Sumerian Art Neo-Sumerian Art • The resurgence of Sumer: When Akkadian domination ended, Sumerian culture was revived. The new Sumerian kings built a huge stepped ziggurat with long ramp-like stairways at the royal city of Ur. The Neo-Sumerian ruler Gudea had numerous statues carved in his image. Ziggurat at Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,100 B.C.E. mud brick The Ur ziggurat is one of the largest in Mesopotamia. It has three ramplike stairways of a hundred steps each that originally ended at a gateway to a brick temple. Ziggurat (restored) at Ur (modern Tell Muqayyar) Iraq ca. 2,100 B.C.E. mud brick Seated statue of Gudea holding temple plan from Girsu (modern Telloh) Iraq ca. 2,100 B.C.E. diorite 29 in. high Neo-Sumerian Art • Gudea's diorite portraits: The most conspicuous, preserved sculptural monuments of the Neo-Sumerian age portray the ensi of Lagash, Gudea. • Gudea of Lagash built or rebuilt many temples and placed statues of himself in all of them. In the seated portrait (no head), Gudea has on his lap a plan of the new temple he erected to Ningirsu. Babylonian Art Stele with code of Hammurabi from Susa, Iran ca. 1,780 B.C.E. basalt 88 in. high Babylonian Art • A stone pillar features a relief carving at the top and text inscribed below. • The stele that records Hammurabli's remarkably early law code also is one the of the first examples of an artist employing foreshortening – the representation of a figure or object at an angle. • The relationship between king and god in the ancient Near East is set out on this Babylonian stele representing the sun god extending to Hammurabi the symbols of his authority to govern and enact laws Stele with code of Hammurabi from Susa, Iran ca. 1,780 B.C.E. basalt 88 in. high Hittites: Lion Gate The Hittites in Anatolia built a city fortified with stone walls and towers with a pair of carved stone lions (seven-feet tall) at the main gateway. The Hittites conquered and sacked Babylon around 1595 BCE Elamite Art Elamite/Assyrian Art • MIDDLE ELAMITE AND ASSYRIAN ART The Elamite Empire lasted until 641 BCE, when its capital city, Susa, was destroyed by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. • Elam at its height: To the east of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon, in what is western Iran today, a civilization flourished that historians refer to by the Biblical name Elam. Statue of Queen Napir-Asu from Susa, Iran ca. 1,350-1,300 B.C.E. bronze and copper 50 3/4 in. high Elamite Art • Napir-Asu's immovable portrait: A statue cast, weighing 3,760 pounds, features a solid bronze core and an outer surface of hollow-cast copper; intended as votive offering • Napir-Asu was the wife of one of the most powerful Elamite Kings Statue of Queen Napir-Asu from Susa, Iran ca. 1,350-1,300 B.C.E. bronze and copper 50 3/4 in. high Assyrian Art Reconstruction drawing of the citadel of Sargon II, Dar Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) Iraq ca. 720-705 B.C.E. Assyrian Art • Assyrian fortress-palaces: The Assyrians undertook ambitious building projects, such as the citadel of Sargon II, which was decorated with large-scale stone sculptures of lamassu and with relief carvings illustrating the king's prowess in war and hunting. • The fortified walls of the vast royal citadel of Sargon II enclosed courtyards, a throne room, service quarters, guard rooms, a great ziggurat, and six sanctuaries for six different gods. Lamassu (winged human headed bull) from the citadel of Sargon II, Dar Sharrukin (modern Khorsabad) Iraq ca. 720-705 B.C.E. limestone 13 ft. 10 in. high Assyrian Art • Monstrous guardians: Lammasu uarding the gate to Sargon's palace were colossal limestone monsters. • Ancient sculptors insisted on showing complete views of animals. This four-legged Assyrian palace guardian has five legs – two when seen from the front and four in profile view Gilgamesh? Wrestling Lion from the citadel of Sargon II, Dar Sharrukin ca. 720-705 B.C.E. limestone 13 ft. 10 in. high Assyrian archers pursuing enemies from the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Kalhu (modern Nimrud) ca. 875-860 B.C.E. gypsum 2 ft. 10 3/8 in. high Assyrian ARt • Assyrian palaces were adorned with extensive series of narrative reliefs exalting the king and recounting his great deeds. This one depicts Assyrian archers driving the enemy into the Euphrates River Ashurbanipal hunting lions from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Ninevah (modern Kuyunjik) Iraq ca. 645-640 B.C.E. gypsum approximately 5 ft. high Assyrian Art • In addition to ceremonial and battle scenes, the hunt was a common subject of Assyrian palace releifs. The Assyrians considered the hunting and killing of lions manly royal virtues on par with victory in warfare. Ashurbanipal hunting lions from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Ninevah (modern Kuyunjik) Iraq ca. 645-640 B.C.E. gypsum approximately 5 ft. high Ashurbanipal hunting lions from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Ninevah (modern Kuyunjik) Iraq ca. 645-640 B.C.E. gypsum approximately 5 ft. high Assyrian Art • Chronicles of great deeds: For their palace walls the Assyrian kings commissioned extensive series of narrative reliefs exalting royal power and piety. The degree of documentary detail in the Assyrian reliefs is without parallel in the ancient Near East. Neo-Babylonian Art NEO-BABYLONIAN AND ACHAEMENID PERSIAN ART • NEO-BABYLONIAN AND ACHAEMENID PERSIAN ART With the collapse of the Assyrian Empire, Babylonian kings reestablished their power in the south. The city of Babylon became one of the greatest cities of antiquity, famous for its "hanging gardens" and its enormous ziggurat. The city gate was faced with blue-glazed bricks and glazed bricks molded into reliefs of animals. The city was captured in the 6th century BCE and became part of the great Persian Empire. The Persian kings built a fortified royal palace at Persepolis. • Wondrous Babylon:King Nebuchadnezzar II, restored Babylon to its rank as one of the great cities of antiquity.The cities “hanging gardens” were counted as among the Seven Wonders of the ancient world and its enormous ziggurat was immortalized in the Bible as the Tower of Babel. Ishtar Gate (restored) from Babylon, Iraq ca. 575 B.C.E. glazed brick Neo-Babylonian Art • Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar II was one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. Its arcuated Ishtar Gate featured glazed bricks depicting Marduk and Nabu's dragon and Adad's bull. • Lining the processional way leading up to the gate were reliefs of Ishtar's sacred lion, glazed in yellow brown, and red against a blue background. Ishtar Gate (restored) details of dragon (Marduk) and bull (Adad) from Babylon, Iraq ca. 575 B.C.E. glazed brick Ishtar Gate (restored) details of lion (Ishtar) from Babylon, Iraq ca. 575 B.C.E. glazed brick Achaemenid Persian Art • The triumph of Persia: Although Nebuchadnezzar boasted of building a wall to surround Babylon to prevent the invasions, Cyrus of Persia captured the city in the sixth century. • Imperial Persepolis:The most important source of knowledge about Persian art and architecture is the ceremonial and administrative complex on the citadel at Persepolis.It was built between 521 and 465 BCE by Darius I (r. 522-48:6 BCE) and Xerxes (r. 486-46:5 BCE), successors of Cyrus. Palace of Darius I and Xerxes I Persepolis, Iran ca. 521-465 B.C.E. Persian Art • The heavily fortified complex of Persian royal buildings on a high plateau at Persepolis contained a royal audience hall, or apadana, 60 feet high and 217 feet square with 36 colossal columns. • The reliefs decorating the walls of the terrace and staircases leading to the apadana represent processions of royal guards, Persian nobles and dignitaries, and representatives from subject nations bringing the king tribute. Each emissary wears his national costume and carries a typical regional gift for the conqueror. Palace of Darius I and Xerxes I Persepolis, Iran ca. 521-465 B.C.E. Palace of Darius I and Xerxes I Persepolis, Iran ca. 521-465 B.C.E. Sasanian Art Sasanian Art • SASANIAN ART The Persian Empire was defeated by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE. A new Persian Empire ruled by Sasanian kings was established in 224 CE. • The new Persian empire: With the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great in 330 BCE, ancient Near Eastern history becomes part of Greek and Roman history. • Shapur and Ctesiphon: The son and successor of Artaxerxes, Shapur I (r. 241-27:2), succeeded in further extending Sasanian territory. Palace of Shapur I from Ctesiphon, Iraq ca. 250 C.E. Palace of Shapur I from Ctesiphon, Iraq ca. 250 C.E. Sasanian Art • The last great pre-Islamic civilization of the Near East was that of the Sasanians. Their palace at Ctesiphon, near Baghda, features a brick audience hall (iwan) covered by an enormous pointed arch Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian from Bishapur, Iraq ca. 260 C.E. rock-cut relief Sasanian Art • The Sasanian King Shapur I humiliated the Roman emperor Valerian in 260 CD and commemorated his surrender in over-life-size reliefs cut into the cliffs outside Persepolis Triumph of Shapur I over Valerian from Bishapur, Iraq ca. 260 C.E. rock-cut relief Shapur I drachim ca. 260 C.E. cast silver coins Head of Sasanian King (Shapur II?) from Ctesiphon, Iraq ca. 350 C.E. silver with mercury gilding 15 3/4 in. high Sasanian splendor: A silver head thought by many to portray Shapur II (r. 310 - 379), suggests the splendor of Sasanian court life.
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