• Nimrud, c. 884–859 BC
  • Alabaster 
  • Inv. 118

Assyrian low-relief

This low-relief comes from the north-western palace of Nimrud, built by Assurnazirpal II (r. 884–859 BC), who introduced an innovative facing for the lower part of the walls of the public rooms of the palace by using large slabs, of which the present piece is an example. It depicts a winged demon, with its right hand raised, in a ritual attitude, and the left hand holding a container for holy water. The relief is divided along the middle by an extensive inscription in cuneiform characters, dedicated to the monarch, with reference to the protector gods, titles, constructions and military feats.

Despite the abstract ceremonial severity of the style in this work, which lacks the liberty and the spontaneity of the reliefs depicting military themes or the hunt, it is a fine example of the quality that Assyrian artists attained in the art of low-relief, their highest and most original form of artistic expression. The relief also shows the effort put into decorating the palace and the care to protect it through the help of such genies.

Northwest Palace, Nimrud (original Kalhu), modern Iraq; Paul Mallon Collection (?). Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian through Paul Mallon, Paris, 31 January 1920.

H. 230 cm; W. 140 cm 

Lisbon 2001

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2001, pp. 22–3, cat. 8.

Updated on 29 july 2022

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