Sunday, 1 March 2015

#613 Throw on another log . . . Assyrian and Babylonian art

Throughout history, sculpture has been the silent expression of civilization.  It is the language of humanity that
has survived the millenniums.  It is through sculpture and architecture that we learned the history of mankind.

As an artist, I've come to know the value of getting the "big picture" . . . knowing what came before and knowing
what led to the art that is being created today.  The important movements in Western art history are as follows:  
                                         1.  Prehistoric Art - Caveman, Lascaux
                                         2.  Mesopotamia -  Includes Persia, Sumer, Assyria, and Babylon
                                         3.  Ancient Egypt
                                         4.  The Greeks
                                         5.  The Romans
                                         6.  Byzantium
                                         7.  Early Middle Ages
                                         8.  Late Middle Ages - Gothic
                                         9.  The Renaissance
                                         10. The Baroque
                                         11. The Rococo
                                         12. Neoclassicism
                                         13. Romanticism and Realism
                                         14. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism
                                         15. The Moderns - Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, Surrealism,
                                                                        Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Minimalism, and more.

The focus of this blog is Assyrian and Babylonian art.
For more info, go to:   http://Art_of_Mesopotamia
Time-Life Books, Great Ages of Man - Cradle of Civilization
Duncan Baird Publishers,  Ancient Civilizations

The ancient kingdoms of Assyria, Babylon, and Sumer (6500  B.C.) were located in the valley of the
Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now Iraq.   Some believe the Garden of Eden was located there.
A series of excavations in the early 19th century shed light on the great cultural center.
Western and Middle Eastern scholars widely agree that these were the earliest known non-nomadic agrarian societies.
Mesopotamia means, "the land between the rivers" and the area is regarded as the "cradle of civilization."

Map of ancient Mesopotamia and Persia . . . present day Iraq (Assyria) and Iran (Persia).
Saudi Arabia is to the South; Turkey to the north; Afghanistan and Pakistan to the east; and Syria to the west.

Farming got underway in the fertile area, the wheel was invented, writing (cuneiform} was invented,
the world's earliest codes of law were formed, the arts and sciences flourished, and civilization was created.
City status occurred in Uruk around 4000 B.C.  Art always advances during periods of prosperity.
More than a thousand years before the Iliad and the Odyssey, Mesopotamia was thriving culturally.

The Assyrians quarried limestone and alabaster in slabs, and therefore most of their work is relief but some
approaches sculpture in the round.  In true reliefs, there is as much drawing as there is modeling.    
Their winged beasts stood at entrances of palaces and temples and all through Assyrian sculpture, 
wings are used to differentiate gods from mortals.  Their imagery had human heads - typically with a beard of
 alternate rows of horizontal and vertical curls - and bodies of animals such as lions and bulls.
Since the dawn of history, lions had been a constant menace in the marshes of Mesopotamia.
It was the purpose of the sculptor to make an image of a protecting or guardian deity.

Stone relief from a palace at Nimrod - present day Mosul, Iraq - excavated in 1840.

Relief at Nimrod with descriptive material written across the surface.

There are fine examples of early and later Assyrian and Babylonian sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art 
in New York.  Later work of approximately the Eighth Century B.C. show a great advance in sculpture and reached
new heights in realism and sense of motion.  Some of the finest reliefs came from the palace of
Ashur-nasir-apal II in Nimrod (present day Mosul) and almost all of the scenes represent him hunting.

Seventh Century B.C. Assyrian relief from a palace in the present day Mosul area.

Assyrian relief showing Assyrian army routing the Arabians mounted on camels in 651 B.C.

The art of Mesopotamia (10th millennium B.C.) includes Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Sumer.  The Assyrian style is distinct from the Babylonia art and was dominant in contemporary Mesopotamia around 1500 B.C. and lasted until the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C.  Assyrian art influenced Ancient Greek art including the Pegasus motif.  The famous Ishtar Gate in the British Museum is an example of Neo-Babylonian period (575 B.C.) and was the main entrance to Babylon . . .
it was built when Nebuchadadnezzar came into power and the art center moved to Babylon

Glazed enameled  brick at Susa (modern Iran) made by Babylonian craftsmen.

A relief of Persian King Darius I found at Persepolis . . . present day Iran.

 Sadly, as this is being written antiquities are being sold and rare ancient masterpieces such as the
Assyrian winged bull in the Mosul Museum are being destroyed as the world watches.

Fortunately, great museums around the world like the Met in New York, the Louvre, and the British Museum
have examples of Mesopotamia Art:  Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian in their antiquities collections.
 These works will forever guide us and educate us as to the derivative and history of Western art, culture, and civilization.

Go to the BLOG INDEX on the right for more information.

Blog, text, photos, drawings, and sculpture . . . © Sandy Scott and Trish

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