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Work Cylinder Seal of Ibni-Sharrum
Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia
Cylinder Seal of Ibni-Sharrum
© 2000 RMN / Franck Raux
Near Eastern Antiquities
Fine engraving, elegant drawing, and a balanced composition make this seal one of the masterpieces of glyptic art. The decoration, which is characteristic of the Agade period, shows two buffaloes that have just slaked their thirst in the stream of water spurting from two vases held by two naked kneeling heroes.
A masterpiece of glyptic art
This seal, which belonged to Ibni-Sharrum, the scribe of King Sharkali-Sharri, who succeeded his father Naram-Sin, is one of the most striking examples of the perfection attained by carvers in the Agade period. The two naked, curly-headed heroes are arranged symmetrically, half-kneeling. They are both holding vases from which water is gushing as a symbol of fertility and abundance; it is also the attribute of the god of the river, Enki-Ea, of whom these spirits of running water are indeed the acolytes. Two arni, or water buffaloes, have just drunk from them. Below the scene, a river winds between the mountains represented conventionally by a pattern of two lines of scales. The central cartouche bearing an inscription is held between the buffaloes' horns.
A scene testifying to relations with distant lands
Buffaloes are emblematic animals in glyptic art in the Agade period. They first appear in the reign of Sargon, indicating sustained relations between the Akkadian Empire and the distant country of Meluhha, that is, the present Indus Valley, where these animals come from. These exotic creatures were probably kept in zoos and do not seem to have been acclimatized in Iraq at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Indeed, it was not until the Sassanid Empire that they reappeared. The engraver has carefully accentuated the animals' powerful muscles and spectacular horns, which are shown as if seen from above, as they appear on the seals of the Indus.
The production of a royal workshop
The calm balance of the composition, based on horizontal and vertical lines, gives this tiny low relief a classical monumental character, typical of the style of the late Akkadian period. Seals of this quality were the preserve of the entourage of the royal family or high dignitaries and were probably made in a workshop whose production was reserved for this elite.
BibliographyAmiet Pierre, Bas-reliefs imaginaires de l'ancien Orient : d'après les cachets et les sceaux-cylindres, exp. Paris, Hôtel de la Monnaie, juin-octobre 1973, avec une préface de Jean Nougayrol, Paris, Hôtel de la Monnaie, 1973.
Amiet Pierre, L'Art d'Agadé au musée du Louvre, Paris,
Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1976.
Art of the First Cities, New York, 2003, n 135.
Boehmer Rainer Michael, Die Entwicklung der Glyptik während der Akkad-Zeit, Berlin, W. De Gruyter und C , 1965, n 724, fig. 232.
Boehmer Rainer Michael, Das Auftreten des Wasserbüffels
in Mesopotamien in historischer Zeit und sein sumerische Bezeichnung,
ZA 64 (1974), pp. 1-19.
Clercq Louis (de), Collection de Clercq. Catalogue méthodique et raisonné. Antiquités assyriennes, cylindres orientaux, cachets, briques, bronzes,
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Near-East, Londres, British museum publications, 1987, n 529.
Frankfort Henri, Cylinder Seals, Londres, 1939, pl XVIIc.
Zettler Richard L., "The Sargonic Royal Seal. A Consideration of Sealing in Mesopotamia", in Seals and Sealing in the Ancient Near East,
Bibliotheca Mesopotamica 6, Malibu, 1977, pp. 33-39.
Cylinder Seal of Ibni-Sharrum
Agade period, reign of Sharkali-Sharri (c. 2217-2193 BC)
H. 3.9 cm; Diam. 2.6 cm
Formerly in the De Clercq collection; gift of H. de Boisgelin, 1967
Mesopotamia, c. 2350–2000 BC
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