Robin Urton: dimensional paintings on glass


Art of Mesopotamia



Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu

Sumerian Votive Figures


The Sumerians

The Sumerians were the first civilization to occupy the Tigris-Euphrates river valley called the Mesopotamia (literally meaning "the land between two rivers"). Each of their separate city-states had its own ziggurat, which contained governmental offices as well as a temple. The temple was located on the highest platform (now eroded in the above example).

Since the Mesopotamia had no geographical barriers, it was open to attack from other developing civilizations. Thus, its history is one of continual invasions. With each successive ruler, new artistic influences were absorbed.


The Akkadians

The Akkadians were the first group of invaders to overthrow the Sumerians. These two portraits were probably of Akkadian rulers. They are cast in copper, demonstrating their advanced technology. Note the naturalism of their features, combined with the geometric stylization of their beards.


Stele of Hammurabi

The Babylonians


Hammurabi reigned Mesopotamia between 1792 and 1750 B.C.E. His code of laws was probably the first written rule of conduct governing property rights, financial transactions, and domestic matters.

At the top of the stele, Hammurabi is shown, receiving divine inspiration from the sun-god - who sits on his heavenly throne, with light rays radiating off of his shoulders. Below this is a complex inscription of laws. Its entire height is 7'4", though only the top portion is pictured here.


The Assyrians


Winged Deity

Human-Headed Winged Lion

When the Assyrians conquered the Babylonians in the 9th century B.C.E., they erected citadels to protect their temples and palaces from further invasions. On the huge stone walls were carvings depiting winged deities, which was emblematic of the power of their king. At the entrance to the citadel of Nimrud were a pair of winged bulls. The face is believed to be a portrait of the king, Ashurnasirpal II. His cap indicates his divine status. There is an interesting peculiarity about this statue: They felt it was necessary that both front legs were visible on approaching it, but also wanted it to appear as if it was walking when viewed from the side. This problem permitted them to make a compromise by giving the creature 5 legs.

The Ishtar Gate, 575 B.C.E.



The Neo-Babylonians






Walking Lion, from the Ishtar Gate, glazed brick, 6th c. B.C.E


Since the Babylonians had a second reign of power, the newer kingdom is known as the Neo-Babylonian. Like the Assyrians, the desire to to close out possible invaders prompted them to build their own citadel. The Ishtar gate was used to impress visitors as well as protect the city. The glazed ceramic animals are majestic, and were probably meant as spirit-guardians.

Next: Ancient Egypt