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Work Seated statue of a Mesopotamian prince

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Statue assise d'un prince mésopotamien

Near Eastern Antiquities
Mesopotamia

Author(s):
Demange Françoise

This near life-size seated statue of a Mesopotamian ruler was found at Susa in Iran where, according to the inscription he had carved on it, the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahunte took it in the twelfth century BC as part of the spoils of war.

Statue of a Mesopotamian ruler found at Susa in Iran

"I am Shutruk-Nahunte, son of Halludush-Inshushinak, king of Anshan and Susa, who enlarged the kingdom, master, ruler of the land of Elam. Inshushinak my god having granted me this, I destroyed Eshnunna; I took away the statue and brought it to the land of Elam. I offered it to Inshushinak, my God."
With these few lines, which he had carved in place of the original Akkadian inscription, the Elamite conqueror appropriated to himself this effigy of a ruler of the Mesopotamian city of Eshnunna. This heavy and almost life-size seated statue, carried off by Shutruk-Nahunte in the twelfth century BC, depicts a Mesopotamian prince who reigned towards the end of the third millennium. It was thus already an antiquity, but this gesture by the Elamite king shows how highly these royal figures were prized.

A traditional seated statue

The statue of this ruler, seated with hands joined in prayer, would have been made to be placed in a temple, where it would pay continuous homage to the ruler's guardian deity. It remains faithful to the the traditional conventions established centuries earlier. The prince is dressed in a robe which leaves bare his left arm and shoulder, the emphatic modeling of which contrasts with the geometrical rendering of the lower part of the body, shrouded in the almost cubic form of the garment, with pleats indicated in a formulaic manner. This emphasis on the figure's vigorous musculature is a convention intended to emphasize the ruler'sstrength and power. The extremely simple garment is nothing more than a draped length of fabric, with no fringe, similar to the dress of Hammurabi on the stele inscribed with the code which bears his name. The beard is divided into eight long locks.

A prestigious work of art once thought to portray Hammurabi of Babylon

This near life-size statue was carved from a large block of diorite. A very hard, dark stone of volcanic origin, diorite had been the royal stone par excellence since the Akkadian period. Texts of the third millennium record that it was imported a great distance from the land of Magan, or modern Oman. It was therefore scarce, and its use was a sign of wealth and power. Though difficult to work, its hardness - which promised durability - showed off the technical skills of sculptors and enabled them to work with vigor and precision. Gudea of Lagash had chosen diorite for his statues, and the stone was prized by princes throughout the whole of the Palaeo-Babylonian period.
It was once thought that this work, impressive in its dimensions and material, might be a depiction of Hammurabi after his conquest of the city; certain details, however, such as the rendering of the locks of the beard, indicate that this prince reigned at the very end of the third millennium or the very beginning of the second.

Bibliography

Spycket Agnès, La Statuaire du Proche-Orient ancien, Leyde et Cologne, 1981.
The Royal city of Susa NewYork, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16 novembre 1992 - 7 mars 1993, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, n 11.
Mesopotamia, n 134, Tokyo, Fukuoka, 2000-2001.

Technical description

  • Statue assise d'un prince mésopotamien

    Fin du IIIe - début du IIe millénaire avant J.-C.

  • Diorite

    89 H ; 52 LA ; 55.5 EP

  • Fouilles J. de Morgan

    Sb 61

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Mesopotamia, 2nd and 1st millennia BC
    Room 3

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