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Work Statue of Queen Napirasu, wife of King Untash-Napirisha

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Iran

Statue of Queen Napirasu, wife of Untash-Napirisha

© 2010 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities
Iran

Author(s):
Herbin Nancie

This statue is of Queen Napirasu, wife of Untash-Napirisha, who ruled in the Middle Elamite period as one of the greatest Igihalkid kings. Under this dynasty, a great Elamite empire flourished, taking advantage of the decline of neighboring Mesopotamia. Untash-Napirisha founded the city of Al-Untash-Napirisha and filled it with monuments decorated with statues, which are remarkable proof of the standard of Elamite metalworking techniques.

A statue protected by the gods

Queen Napirasu, Untash-Napirisha's wife, is shown standing. The figure is life-size, but the head and the left arm are damaged. She is wearing a short-sleeved gown covered in the sort of embroidery usually found on such garments. She has four bracelets on her right wrist and a ring on her left ring finger. Although her hands are crossed on her stomach, she is not in the pose usually associated with worship. The inscription on the front of the skirt is in Elamite, reflecting the kingdom's linguistic identity. This inscription gives the queen's name and titles, invokes the protection of the gods, describes the ritual offerings made to them, and calls down their curse on anyone bold enough to desecrate her likeness. The statue is placed under the protection of the god Beltiya and three deities associated with the Igihalkid Dynasty - the god Inshushinak, the god Napirisha, and his consort Kiririsha. These three deities are also depicted on the stele of Untash-Napirisha, also in the Louvre (Sb3973).

Elaborate metalworking techniques

This statue of Queen Napirasu is a rare surviving likeness of a member of the royal court during the Middle Elamite period. The sheer amount of metal used - some 1,750 kg for a single work - reflects the wealth of the Elamite kingdom during Untash-Napirisha's reign. The dimensions and the finesse of the statue also reflect the skill of the Elamite metalworkers. The work must have been cast in two successive parts: a lost-wax cast for the copper and tin shell, followed by a full cast alloy of bronze and tin for the core, rather than the more usual refractory clay. The two parts are held together with pins and splints. The sides would have originally been covered with gold or silver.

A great king and a great builder

The reign of the Igihalkid king, Untash-Napirisha, witnessed the launch of a major construction program. The king ordered the restoration of a large number of temples and also built a new religious capital, Al-Untash-Napirisha (sometimes simply known as Al-Untash), on the site of modern-day Chogha Zanbil. The aim was to unite the different religions practiced in his kingdom in one place. Monuments throughout the city were decorated with numerous sculptures commissioned by the king, including this statue of his wife, which was discovered in Susa but was probably moved there from Al-Untash.

Bibliography

Amiet Pierre, Suse 6000 ans d'histoire, Paris, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1988, pp. 98-99 ; fig. 57.
Benoit A. , "Les Civilisations du Proche-Orient ancien", in Manuels de l'École du Louvre ; Art et archéologie, Paris, École du Louvre, 2003, pp 358-359 ; fig. 180.
Meyers Peter, "The casting process of the statue of queen Napir-Asu in the Louvre", extrait de : Journal of Roman Archaeology, supplementary series, n 39, Portsmouth, 2000, pp.11-18.

Technical description

  • Statue of Queen Napirasu, wife of Untash-Napirisha

    C. 1340-1300 BC

    Tell of the Acropolis, Susa

  • Bronze and copper

  • J. de Morgan excavations, 1903

    Sb 2731

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Sully wing
    Ground floor
    Iran, Susiana (Middle Elamite period)
    Room 10

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