Unit One Assignment: Ashurnasirpal II I have entered into the palace of the great Ashurnasirpal II, and am approaching the throne room to await my meeting with the king. In front of me are two Lamassu figures that guard the entrance, Colossal statue of a winged lion from the North-West Palace of Ashurnasirpal II (Fig. 1). I am immediately in awe of the sheer size of this pair of sculptures, they each stand over ten feet tall, towering over individuals who would like to enter the throne room. The pair is enormous and intimidating as they are approached. When I first advance I see this combination of man, lion, and bird frontally.
I notice the proud lion’s chest and huge paws. These elements show the strength of the beast and are representative of the power of Ashurnasirpal II and his empire. The body of the lion is adorned with the face of a man, which signifies the intelligence that the kingdom possesses. The face wears the traditional beard of the king, and the traditional horned crown indicating the divinity of the king. Associating the king and his domain with the all-powerful gods, shows the connection with absolute power of the divine with the total power of the empire (Reade).
Making my way around to the profile view of the statue I continue to see the massive body of the lion, and now see the beautiful feathered wing. The intricate details and pattern of the wing are impressive. The wings represent the swiftness of the ruler (Reade). From the side I see all four legs of the lion, the artist uses the idea of most informative viewpoint, to give an accurate view of the most important aspects of the creature from every angle. From the side the lion appears to be striding forward, perhaps symbolizing aggressiveness (Hedin).
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The proportions of the elements from each animal are not true to scale. The overall size of the piece is much larger than the animals and human depicted. The wings are much larger than that of any bird, the body larger than any lion, and the human head far bigger than any human. What is interesting is the proportion of these elements as they relate to each other. They are of equal importance, the wing is just as large as the body of the lion, and the human head is just as tall as the height of the torso.
This shows the equal importance of strength, intellect, and swiftness to the power of the king. This piece focuses on the importance of human and animal anatomy, and shows how advanced artistically this society has become (Atac). There is elaborate attention to detail in the hairs of the beard. This same detailed carving is replicated in the intricate feathers of the wing. The repetition emphasizes the importance of the bearded king figure. Visually I am drawn to the elaborate design in these elements on such a massive statue.
The cuneiform shows that this culture is educated and values literacy enough to include it within its art. The engraved writings record ideas about Ashurnasirpal II and are possibly meant to immortalize him within this permanent art piece. As I enter the throne room, I notice an interesting relief located directly behind the throne of Ashurnasirpal II, Stone relief from the throne room of Ashurnasirpal (Fig. 2). This piece is clearly important in depicting elements about the king, because it is so prominently displayed.
The throne room is the area of the palace where the king addresses the public and this room would often hold audiences of people who have come to see the king (Cohen). I find it very interesting that Ashurnasirpal II is as tall as the entire relief itself, but the god figure that is shown is much smaller in comparison to each of the king. The Assyrian empire does not require the people that they conquer to convert to their religion, but most certainly require their new subjects to pledge allegiance to Ashurnasirpal II (Mackenzie).
Perhaps the larger scale of the king represent which loyalty is more important. The symmetry in this piece is very important. Directly in the middle is situated a date palm tree which is the lifeblood of this culture (Hedin). On either side of the plant Ashurnasirpal II is shown, in fact, each figure appears twice in this relief. This repetition further emphasizes his importance, but also shows a sort of dichotomy and balance in his power. Each figure is shown from most informative view point.
Both images of the king, I see his legs in profile, but his upper body is turned to show both shoulders completely and the actions of each arm. On the right side the king is holding a mace, which I recognize as a weapon with a heavy top that could be used to beat enemies. The gestures of each version of Ashurnasirpal II seem extremely important. The figure on the left side is motioning towards the tree, and associating the king with the abundance of the land. As if it is the king who has brought great prosperity to this civilization (Reade).
This theme seems to be repeated with the winged protector figures standing behind each representation of Ashurnasirpal II. These figures are ritualistically blessing the king, and reiterating his intense connection with the gods. This relief seems to be stressing that all that is good in the Assyrian empire is because of Ashurnasirpal II himself and that the gods have provided this righteous ruler for the people (Reade). I make my way out the throne room, towards the temple of Ishtar Sharrat-niphi. Here I can see a life sized statue of Ashurnasirpal II, Statue of Ashurnasirpal II (Fig. ). The statue is in the goddess Ishtar’s temple to remind her of the piety of the king. I notice that there are no protruding appendages or any outreaching elements of this statue, but that it is one solid mass of magnesite (Reade). The solid appearance of this portrait symbolizes the secure and stable king and empire. The complex pattern on the beard of the king points out the importance of the beard. The beard clearly symbolizes masculinity, but perhaps it also implies wisdom and power. The size of the beard on this statue is very large in comparison to the rest of the face.
It is geometric and structured, but with beautiful ornate detailing. Ashurnasirpal II is shown with the sickle in his right hand, and with the mace in his left hand. The arms are not symmetrical in form, but the rest of the statue’s shape is. The sickle is the weapon that in mythology, the gods used to fight monsters. The mace is shown again, similarly to the depiction of him in the relief, as a weapon that represents authority. Both objects have divine association, which echoes the god like authority that Ashurnasirpal II has over the empire.
I find it interesting that he is lifting his arm that holds the mace, perhaps as though he is about to actively us this weapon. Again I see cuneiform used in the art of this culture. Across the chest of the statue of the king, there are etchings that announce the accomplishments of the king as well as his genealogy (Reade). Included in these writings are the recent invasions of surrounding villages. This is clearly just another way to intimidate and boast about not only the power of the Assyrian empire, but the power of Ashurnasirpal II himself.
All of the statues and reliefs that I have observed throughout the royal palace seem to reaffirm the importance and power of Ashurnasirpal II. Many of these works were created “by the initiate for the initiate” (Atac). The content was intended for the audience who would see it in its original form, all of the pieced mentioned have a similar purple. It would be very difficult to not understand the message that the king is sending with all of the decoration. That the king is of divine power and possess the greatest influence over all of the land of Assyria.
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