Height: 10.350 cm
Width: 10.200 cm
Thickness: 2.450 cm (max.)
Weight: 151.000 g
Room 57-59: Ancient Levant
Inlaid ivory panel of a lioness devouring a boy
Phoenician, 9th-8th century BC
From the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, Nimrud, northern Iraq
This carved ivory panel is one of an almost identical pair with one now in the Iraq Museum, Baghdad. They originally formed part of a piece of furniture, perhaps a throne. The incised letter 'aleph' beside holes on the top and bottom of the panel would have served as a construction guide.
The panel was found at the Assyrian capital city of Nimrud in northern Mesopotamia. It was recovered by the excavator Max Mallowan from the bottom of an ancient well in the palace of the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II (reigned 883-859 BC). It had probably been thrown there during the destruction of the palace in the late seventh century BC. The carving is Phoenician in style, which suggests that the piece of furniture may have been made in one of the Phoenician centres along the Levantine coast, and come to the Assyrian capital as tribute or booty.
The carving shows an African boy with jewelled armlets and bracelets being attacked by a lioness. Above them is a dense network of lilies and papyrus. Much of the surface of the ivory was once overlaid with gold leaf and inlaid with carnelian and lapis lazuli. Some of this survives and there are traces of the blue mortar into which the lapis lazuli inlays were pressed. The African wears a short kilt covered in gold leaf. The curls of his hair are marked with gold. A spot of lapis lazuli is also inlaid on the forehead of the lioness.
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
R.D. Barnett, A catalogue of the Nimrud ivor (London, The British Museum Press, 1975)
J.E. Curtis and J.E. Reade (eds), Art and empire: treasures from (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)