The 'Garden Party' relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal (Room S)
Nineveh, northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 645 BC
Ashurbanipal and his Queen enjoying a banquet
This panel was the focal point of a decorative scheme incorporating all the triumphs in war and sport of which King Ashurbanipal (reigned 669-631 BC) was most proud. The panel probably decorated one of the King's private apartments, as the carving of the scene is exceptionally fine.
The queen sits facing Ashurbanipal. Queens, like women in general, were seldom represented in Assyrian sculpture. However, women did sometimes hold power at the Assyrian court, though usually behind the scenes. Documents suggest that Ashurbanipal's grandmother, Naqia-Zakutu, was extremely influential in promoting her son Esarhaddon and then Ashurbanipal to the throne.
The scene also shows a harpist. Images of musicians are among the most important sources for understanding ancient musical instruments. The details in the carving appear to be very accurate.
On the tree in front of the harpist is a human head, that once belonged to Teumman, king of Elam, who had fought against Assyria. Consequently Ashurbanipal's army invaded Elam. The campaign was illustrated as redecoration in one of the rooms of the palace of his grandfather Sennacherib (reigned 704-681 BC).
The mutilation of the faces of the king and queen was probably done by an enemy soldier when the Median and Babylonian armies ransacked Nineveh in 612 BC.
J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)
D. Collon, Ancient Near Eastern art (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)
Length: 58.420 cm
Width: 139.700 cm
Depth: 15.240 cm
Length: 58.420 cm
The palace was excavated by H. Rassam (from 1853)