- Museum number
Gypsum wall relief panel: split into three registers. The top register consists of a sequence of events. On the right a lion is being released from its cage by a small boy or eunuch, who is himself protected from the lion by a smaller cage. The lion advances left, and is hit by arrows shot by the king. They fail to kill it, and it leaps at the king who continues shooting, guarded by a shield-bearer; eunuchs with spare arrows stand behind him.
The central register is again read from right to left. On the right an Assyrian horseman, guarded by spearmen in a chariot, distracts a somewhat uninterested lion. The king comes up from the left and grabs the lion by the tail; the king's right hand, not visible here, held a mace ready to strike the lion over the head, as described in the accompanying caption. It is notable that much of the lion's tail has been chipped away, so that the lion has been, as it were, set loose.
In the lower register dead lions are brought from the left. A musician with a plectrum plays a triumphant tune on a seven-stringed horizontal harp; there is another man beside him, perhaps a singer, unless we are to envisage a second harp. The tall stand is for burning incense. An elaborate table or altar, laid with a cloth, holds a bowl containing a leg of meat and a jaw, what may be a bunch of onions, and a smaller container. The king himself is pouring a libation, which the caption tells us is wine, over the bodies of four lions. Behind him stand attendants with fans and towels, his bodyguards, and grooms with the royal horses.
- Production date
Height: 159 centimetres
Thickness: 13 centimetres (extant)
Width: 95 centimetres
- Inscription subject
- Curator's comments
- Ashurbanipal records that in his time there was ample rain in Assyria and lions abounded. He took much pleasure in the traditional royal sport of killing them, which was frequently done after they had been captured or possibly reared in captivity. This is the subject here, on panels which probably decorated one of the king's own private apartments. The king is shown wearing full regalia, though a comparable series elsewhere shows him in more practical dress.
The final act of the scene depicted in the top register, on another panel to the left which is now in the Louvre, Paris, showed the lion confronted face to face, in the attitude of the Assyrian royal seal, with the king, who stabs it with his sword.
The defacement of the lion's tail in the central register was probably the action, at once humorous and symbolic, of some enemy soldier busy ransacking the palace in 612 BC.
Plaster cast of detail made by BMCo: type cast stored with ANE casts at Blythe House (November 2006).
- Bibliographic references
Barnett 1976 / Sculptures from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (668-627 B.C) (p.54, pl.LVII)
Curtis & Reade 1994a / Tesoros de asiria en el Museo Britanico: Arte e Imperio (29)
Curtis & Reade 1995a / Art and empire: treasures from Assyria in the British Museum (29)
Paterson 1901-11 / Assyrian Sculptures (12 parts) (1907 vol., pl.XXXIV-V)
Gadd 1936b / The Stones of Assyria: the surviving remains of Assyrian sculpture, their recovery, and their original positions (p.187-188)
Barnett & Foreman 1959 / Assyrian Palace Reliefs and their Influence on the Sculptures of Babylonia and Persia (pls.90-99)
Frankfort H 1954a / The art and architecture of the Ancient Orient (pl.108b)
Pritchard, J B 1954a / The Ancient Near East in Pictures relating to the Old Testament (p.205, fig.626)
Rawlinson H C & Norris E 1861a / The cuneiform inscriptions of Western Asia, I: a selection from the Historical Inscriptions of Chaldaea, Assyria, and Babylonia (pl.7, IX.D & IX.A) (inscription)
Streck M 1916a / Assurbanipal und die letzten assyrischen Könige bis zum Untergange Niniveh’s I-III (vol.2, p.306(γ) & p.304(α)) (inscription)
British Museum 2011a / Splendours of Mesopotamia (pp.152-53, cat.125)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2018-2019, 8 Nov - 24 Feb, London, BM, I am Ashurbanipal, king of the world, king of Assyria
2014 - 2015 22 Sep - 5 Jan, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age'
2013 - 2014 22 June - 6 Jan, Toronto, Royal Ontario Museum, 'Mesopotamia, Inventing Our World'
2013: 30 Jan-13 May, Museum of History, Hong Kong, 'The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia'
2012: 4 May-7 Oct, Melbourne Museum, 'The Wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia'
2011 28 March-26 June, Abu Dhabi, Manarat Al Saadiyat, 'Splendours of Mesopotamia'
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
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 119 (Old Gallery No.)