- Museum number
Gypsum wall-panel in relief: this panel probably shows part of two independent compositions, in upper and lower registers. The division between the scenes has been treated flexibly, however, and the river between them could be regarded as belonging to both.
Above is a city which is unmistakably Assyrian and may be Nineveh itself. It has massive triple walls with one small postern gate visible; the two outer walls may represent a two-tiered main city wall, while the inner wall surrounded a citadel. At the top, inside the citadel, there is a building decorated with colossal human-headed winged bulls and with columns supported by bases in the shape of lions. The winged bulls are on the façade of the building proper. They are striding, with four visible legs.
The three rows below show soldiers from Iran, probably from Elam, on foot, on horses and in carts. They are charging to the right, and give the impression of people in good heart, perhaps setting out on campaign.
- Production date
Height: 192 centimetres
Thickness: 10 centimetres
Width: 118 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This representation corresponds tolerably well to Sennacherib's description of the South-West Palace at Nineveh, which he had built about fifty years previously, and may represent this very building. The lion column-bases would have been made of bronze, supporting a portico in front of one of the main facades; columned porticoes of this nature were introduced to Assyria from the west. Sennacherib was particularly proud of the technological skill displayed in casting the bases. The winged bulls are striding, with four visible legs, whereas those made by Sennacherib were slightly different, with only three legs visible from the side. Winged bulls with four legs visible from the side were represented in Sargon's palace at Khorsabad, and since he too commissioned bronze lion-bases there is a possibility that it is really his palace shown on this panel. On the other hand, Khorsabad had been largely abandoned many years previously, and it is usually unwise, in interpreting Assyrian art, to place too much reliance on details which may simply reflect artistic licence.
Although the Elamites more usually appear as enemies of the Assyrians, there were warring parties within Elam itself, and whichever of them was losing seems to have been inclined to look to Assyria for support. Elamite documents have been found at Nineveh, and the Assyrians welcomed political refugees who might be useful at a later date. Other Iranian soldiers served in the Assyrian army. This, then, is probably an expedition on which the Assyrians posed as liberators, and had a substantial Iranian force helping them.
- On display (G30/od)
- Exhibition history
2018-2019 8 Nov - 24 Feb, London, BM, I am Ashurbanipal, king of the world, king of Assyria
2008-2009 21 Sept-4 Jan, Boston, MFA, 'Art and Empire'
2007 2 Apr-30 Sept, Alicante, MARQ Museum, 'Art and Empire'
2006 1 Jul-7 Oct, Shanghai Museum, 'Art and Empire'
- Acquisition date
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number