Two Assyrian-style figures

Stoke-on-Trent, England, around AD 1868-93

Inspired by Assyrian sculptures in The British Museum

These figures were inspired by the famous Assyrian carved stone relief sculptures from Nimrud (modern Iraq) excavated between 1845 and 1851 by the archaeologist Henry Layard, who initially thought he had discovered the lost city of Nineveh. The sculptures aroused great public interest when they were brought over to England and put on show in The British Museum during the late 1840s, prompting a wave of enthusiasm for all things Assyrian.

These small moulded ceramic statuettes were intended as domestic ornaments, and interpreted in a distinctly Victorian style (in the round instead of flat). They represent the legendary Assyrian king Sardanapalus and his queen. They were modelled by Aaron Hays, an amateur sculptor who worked as an attendant at the museum, and they were sold for £1 10s. each by Alfred Jarvis, another entrepreneurial museum attendant.

Manufactured by the Staffordshire firm of W.T. Copeland & Sons, they form part of a group of eight Assyrian-inspired objects, including two bookends in the form of a winged, human-headed bull and lion, and a vase in the shape of a bearded bull. They were produced in a hard white porcelain clay called Parian, which was particularly well suited to reproducing the crisp details of carved stone sculptures.

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Two Assyrian-style figures

Sardanapalus, King of Assyria

  • Sardanapalus' Queen

    Sardanapalus' Queen


More information


J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

P. Atterbury, The Parian Phenomenon (Shepton Beauchamp, 1989)

C. Shin and D. Shin, The illustrated guide to Victo (London, Barrie and Jenkins, 1971)


Height: 30.500 cm (King)
Height: 30.500 cm (King)

Museum number

M&ME 1985,3-8,3;M&ME 1989,5-8,1



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