Height: 30.000 cm
Excavated by A.H. Layard
Room 55: Mesopotamia
Glazed terracotta tile
Neo-Assyrian, about 883-859 BC
From Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq
Clue to the colour scheme of an ancient palace
This glazed tile was found by the excavator Henry Layard at the Assyrian city of Nimrud. Along with the stone reliefs, it was part of the decorative scheme of the royal palace, although few examples survived Nimrud's destruction in the seventh century BC.
This example depicts an Assyrian king, possibly Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC), accompanied by his bodyguard and attendants. It was probably part of a sequence showing the king as triumphant warrior and hunter. Such tiles provide a clue to the kind of colour scheme used for the relief panels. The decoration was executed in yellow, black and green (perhaps originally red) paint. These were made from natural materials.
It is likely that most major Assyrian buildings had paintwork at least in the reception rooms. Ashurnasirpal recorded that he had represented his triumphs in paintings. There were murals on the walls above the carved stone panels and the ceilings were also painted.
Glazed bricks are mentioned first in the second half of the second millennium BC when the mastery of the mechanical properties of glass had become known.
J.E. Reade, 'Later Mesopotamia', British Museum Magazine: the-9, 16 (Winter 1993), pp. 12-13
J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)