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Mesopotamian Historical Reliefs


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This is a summary of some of the reliefs from both Akkadian and Assyrian culture. It emphasizes the historical detail and the perceptualism of both cultures.

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Mesopotamian Historical Reliefs

  1. 1. Mesopotamian Sculpted Relief<br />A Passion for Historical Detail<br />In the next slide we will begin with an example from the Akkadian Culture <br /> c. 2300 - 2100 BC<br />
  2. 2. The Victory Stele of Naramsin<br />Read about this in your text. Even though this is Akkadian – an earlier culture than Assyrian, we can see that it depicts certain stylistic characteristics that continue in Mesopotamian art for centuries and are similar to Egyptian style as well. Please note:<br />Pose for the King at left-- frontal chest but the rest of the body in profile. (Same as Egyptian) This shows the power and correct side “right side” of the ruler.<br />Symbols of Authority and Kingship – Larger Scale. Wears the horned crown typical of several cultures in Mesopotamia.<br />Directional Symbols – Upward motion of Kings soldiers at left, downward motion of enemy.<br />
  3. 3. The Passion for Detail of Mesopotamian Art<br />This is a detail of the center section of the relief. <br />Please Note:<br />Above– Here we see the head and chest of the enemy the King has stepped on. His leg is under the other fallen captive.<br />Second Figure – He falls limply to his death, but yet to symbolically give the King respect, he still looks to him. Also note the attention to anatomy, although the figure does not have the idealized musculature reserved for only royalty. <br />Nakedness - Symbolic of death. We will see this convention even in Medieval reliefs. <br />
  4. 4. The Passion for Detail in Mesopotamian art.<br />What similarities and/ or differences do you note in this style to Egyptian art such as in the Palette of King Narmer or Menes? <br />Answer on the discussion board. <br />
  5. 5. The Passion for Detail in Mesopotamian Art. Assyrian Art <br />Assyrian Culture<br /> c. 1300 – 612 BC<br />The Assyrians continued this same interest in detail and brought it to an even higher level. Primarily they are known for their historical battle scenes. These lined the palace courtyards at cities like ancient Khorsabad, Nimrud, and Nineveh. <br />Their main function was to impress dignitaries and visitors with the might and heroism of their Empire, which lasted longer than any other in the region—for approx. 600 years. <br />
  6. 6. Reliefs from the Palace at Nimrud – 9thCentury<br />Can you see how Assyrian Relief Art is more Perceptual than Egyptian? <br />Through Cuneiform inscriptions (not seen here) the Assyrians note exactly which battle is depicted here. It is their conquest over the city of Lachish in Judah or modern Israel, as recorded in Isaiah and Ezra.<br />Note the same stylistic elements as seen in the Naram sin Relief:<br />1. Falling enemy – especially in the center—the figure appears to be diving downward, and also at left, we see just the legs of another. <br />3. A change in style and proportion due to class or culture. Note there is more movement and liveliness of detail in the enemy than in the soldiers. <br />2. Symbolic Directional Motion.<br />3. Bulging Muscle Definition.<br />What other details do you see?<br />Two wrestlers? <br />
  7. 7. Assyrian Passion for Historical Detail<br />Details of the Conquest of the City of Lachish by King Sennacherib (704-681 BC). <br />What details regarding the Assyrian capture of the city of Lachish do you see?<br />A battering ram?<br />Weapons, ladders, boulders?<br />Soldiers carrying the spoils of war?<br />Go to this web site for more images and views of Assyrian art: <br /> <br />
  8. 8. Assyrian Passion for Historical Detail <br />RelieffromthePalace of Sennacheribat Nineveh. <br />Following is a quote from the British Museum on this piece.<br />“This fragment shows a Phoenician ship. 'Phoenician' is the Greek name given to the inhabitants of Canaanite cities along the Levant coast. They were an extremely wealthy people, profiting from the trade that linked Mesopotamia and Egypt and the Mediterranean. The Assyrians expanded westwards to control these trade routes and acquire the wealth of the cities through tribute, booty and taxation. The demand by the Assyrians for materials led the Phoenicians to explore the Mediterranean and establish trading colonies at such places as Sicily, Carthage in North Africa, and Spain.” <br />Notice the men in the ships with the oars out into the water represented by wavy lines. We will see an Aegean scene in Ch. 5 of your text a little similar to this. <br />
  9. 9. The Lion in Assyrian Art<br />There are many images of the King and his court fighting lions. Below is one from your text from the capital of the Assyrian Empire at Nineveh. Study the Style in your text.<br />
  10. 10. Assyrian Perceptualism <br />Once again notice the detail and a tendency toward violence.<br />The lion is being stabbed through by the sword of this ruler, King Assurnazirpal. <br />The arrows at his head and flying across the body. <br />
  11. 11. Assyrian King hunting Lions Nineveh – 7th century BC<br />The Lion Hunt theme was used both at Nimrud and at the Assyrian capital at Nineveh.<br />Why such an extreme interest in Lions in Assyrian culture?.<br />This is a loaded question, but here are some theories: <br />1. It was strictly propaganda, to show the King’s heroic strength and power.<br />2. The lion was a real threat in the area.<br />3. According to biblical accounts, lions had been used by God for destruction, and had thus proliferated and become a threat. <br />
  12. 12. Assyrian Passion for Detail and Perceptualism<br />Study this one <br />in your text.<br />It is from the Palace of Assurnabanipal, at Nimrud.<br />
  13. 13. A Carved Ivory inset with Lapis Lazuli and some gold from Nimrud.<br />Assyrian Perceptualism and Drama <br />Can you see how this lion is really attacking a Nubian slave?<br />Their bodies are intertwined showing good observation by the Assyrian artist , especially of the muscles of the Nubian. <br />
  14. 14. Assyrian Perceptualism<br />We must remember that these reliefs were painted. The color does not survive.<br />Here is an artists depiction of a detail of a lion hunt. <br />