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Work Two Servants Carrying a Bench

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Deux serviteurs portant une banquette

© 2011 Musée du Louvre / Thierry Ollivier

Near Eastern Antiquities
Mesopotamia

Author(s):
Interactive monitor in the Oriental Antiquities department

This set is part of the decoration of one of the facades of the palace of Sargon II at Khorsabad (present-day Dur Sharrukin). The scene depicts ceremonial furniture being paraded before the king, who is in the company of the crown prince. These treasures, including tableware, chariots, horses, and precious furniture, are carried by beardless dignitaries dressed in long robes. They are probably eunuchs, who often held very important positions in the Assyrian court.

Princely furniture

Two beardless servants, or perhaps dignitaries, are wearing long fringed tunics and drop earrings.
Their sumptuous costumes and jewelry are matched by the magnificent furniture they are displaying. The legs of the furniture end in lions' paws and the sides are decorated with scrolls and figures of spirits and animals. These images can be compared with archaeological artifacts found in certain Assyrian palaces, especially Nimrud. Made of wood covered with ivory and precious metals, these pieces of furniture were crafted in the cities of the Levant and came into the possession of the Assyrian kings as tribute or booty. The piece with lion paw feet is probably a low square table - or a backless chair (perhaps a bench). Furniture was seldom found in houses in the ancient Near East. It was kept for "divine dwellings," temples in which the gods were served like human beings, and for princely courts - hence the ostentatious decoration of these pieces of furniture, which were intended for official receptions. The detail of the lion's head decorating the upper frame can be compared with metal animal heads - bulls or lions - unearthed during the excavations (see ao2168, a fragment of a bronze bull's head).

A parade for the king

It is not clear whether this piece of furniture is an occasional table, a narrow table, or a stool; in any case, it is a precious item. Its wooden frame would have been decorated with metal or ivory. Occasional tables of this type often feature on cylinder seals showing a king paying homage to a god. The tables were often piled with food. The parade of treasures presented on the relief from the facade of the palace at Khorsabad may well have been for the god as well as for the king, who is watching the scene. We do not know if the furniture was made for the king in Assyria or was booty captured abroad.

Bibliography

Albenda Pauline - Le palais de Sargon d'Assyrie -Paris : Recherche sur les Civilisations, 1986
Caubet A. - Les objets de luxe dans les palais assyriens - Extrait de " Assiri, l'arte, la guerra, il potere - Milano, 1995

Technical description

  • Deux serviteurs portant une banquette

    Façade L

  • H. : 0,36 m. ; L. : 1,78 m. ; Pr. : 0,30 m.

  • Fouilles P.E. Botta 1843 - 1844

    AO 19878

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Mesopotamia, Assyria. Khorsabad
    Room 229

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Additional information about the work

94 CE 53702