ART 315
Art as Necessity:
The multiple choice test and short compare/contrast essays will
take place next week.
The review for the test will be posted Wednesday, along with part
two of this week’s lecture on images of authority.
Please email me with any questions you have in regards to taking
the test. If you experience any technical issues during the course
taking the test, please email me immediately.
Even if, by chance, I don’t see the email until the next day, it will be
documented that you had the issue during the time you were taking
the test (which is also documented in canvas).
Good luck! And now back to this week’s lesson:
The Imagery
& Architecture of Power
From the earliest Neolithic cultures, art was used as
a means to illustrate the power and authority of a
ruler, often through affiliating that ruler with the
Think back to the monuments we have looked
How might these also be construed as
reflecting the
power of the ruling figure?
Art also depicted rulers as heroic warriors who led
their army to victory over the enemy. Note what
similarities exist between the various cultures and
epochs in the representations of their rulers. What
common features are linked to the ideals of a “ruler.”
Also, make note of the differences and what those
distinctions might suggest about the priorities,
values or necessities of the civilization over which the
ruler reigned.
Early Cultures
As you look through the following slides, ask:
•  What possible functions did each of the
examples serve? Why were the objects made?
•  Why are we uncertain as to the function of
some of these images and objects?
•  What aspects of objects imply the value
of the object in its culture?
•  What aspects of artistic creation imply
the value of the object in its culture?
•  What do we learn about the culture from
these examples of art and architecture?
Introduction of Mesopotamia
•  There are several shared characteristics between the early to late Neolithic
Cultures which are reflected in the art, objects and architecture they left
•  This section will focus on the images and architecture monuments through
the lens of how they were not only functional, but also served to portray the
authority of the ruling figures through visual means.
•  For the unit on images of authority, we begin with the sequence of cultures
which were dominant in Ancient Mesopotamia, the third major Neolithic
civilization in our series. This area, nicknamed “the fertile crescent” now
corresponds to modern-day Iraq, as well as parts of Iran, Syria and Turkey.
•  Notice the differences & similarities that exist in how the rulers of the
succeeding cultures were represented. Also, how does the representation of
the ruler also suggest about the other aspects of these early civilizations?
(aka Ancient Near East)
Mesopotamia: The Land Between Two Rivers
•  Every Neolithic needs… a river! (Redundant, but true!) Mesopotamia had
two! The location of Mesopotamia is quite literally the “between the rivers,”
the Tigris and Euphrates
•  The area is also known as “The Fertile Crescent”
•  Instead of a single culture being dominant, as we saw with the Indus Valley an
Ancient Egyptian cultures, in Mesopotamia, there were several different Citystates, many of which rose to power and ruled over the region creating a
succession of empires
•  Like other Neolithic cultures:
Largely agricultural and trade-based economies
Specialized labor and social hierarchies
Early Writing systems
Complex hierarchal religions
Major Cultures of Mesopotamia
•  Sumer: 3500-2332 BCE
•  Akkad: 2332-2150 BCE
•  Neo-Sumer:
2150-1800 BCE
•  Babylon: 1800-1600 BCE
Period of disunity
Assyrian: 900-612 BCE
Neo-Babylon: 612-559 BCE
Achaemenid Persia: 559-330
Culture of Sumer
(c. 3500 – 2332 BCE)
The earliest culture of Mesopotamia: The
Sumerians culture developed advanced
agricultural methods which, in turn,
allowed for an increasingly complex
social structure.
We know many details about this theocratic
administration because the Sumerians
left numerous documents in cuneiform
script (as seen on the left).
The writing was created in order to keep
track of goods and services at the
temples, which were the center of the
social structure of the independent
city-states of the Sumerian culture.
Innovations of Sumer
(c. 3500 – 2332 BCE)
The relative stability of the Sumerian
culture for over 1000 years, allowed
for advances in social structures and
Some examples of Sumerian
Writing : cuneiform
The Wheel
Pottery Wheel
The City-State
Narrative Art
At the center of each of the independent Sumerian city-states a temple was built and
dedicated to state’s chief god. The leader of these early societies were linked with the
temple, and considered to be the “gods’ representatives on earth and steward of their
earthly treasure.” Therefore, take notice of how the architecture is tied to this relationship
between the religious function and authoritarian message displayed by the monumental
Question: Does this remind you of any culture we have examined in previous lessons?
Ruins of the White Temple and Ziggurat at Uruk, ca. 3200 BCE,
Take a moment and imagine standing before the Ziggurat of Uruk in the Sumerian epoch
(After being awed by my awesome Photoshop skills…) Imagine the impact of this structure
on the ordinary Sumerian looking up at the sacred space of the White Temple on the nearly
10-story tall ziggurat (which is estimated to have been 100-feet-tall and over 200 feet wide).
The commanding presence of the structure itself along with the notion of the sacred space
which only the elite priest and leader could enter. (Remember, the Sumerians would not
technically be considered citizens, but rather the “subjects” of the priest-king ruler.)
The Great Ziggurat of Uruk dates to a later era, known as Neo-Sumerian, has
been restored quite thoroughly (minus the original pigmentation and lack of a
temple on top of the ziggurat structure). The Neo-Sumerian period (2150 – 1800
BCE) of the Sumerian culture after their defeat by the Akkadians, in which they
regain a dominant position in the Mesopotamian valley. Much of their original
culture is revived, such as the centrality of this structure and its purpose as both
religious and political nucleus of the city-state.
Statuettes of two worshippers
c. 2700 BCE
height: man 2’4” woman 1’11”
What else can we learn from these statues?
All Statues from the Abu Temple, ca. 2700–2500 BCE
Size ranges from less than a foot to over 30-inches tall
Not only the importance of the deity, but we see what would have been appropriate attire
for the worshipper to wear in the sacred space on the temple cella. There is great
consistency in the appearance of the men and women in terms of attire and hairstyle,
leading scholars to believe that this is reflective of the cultural norms of their time.
Hmmm.. I wonder what would a votive figurine look like today?
All Statues from the Abu Temple, ca. 2700–2500 BCE
Size ranges from less than a foot to over 30-inches tall
Standard of Ur
•  Discovered in 1927 by Leonard
Woolley in a Royal Cemetery in the
city of Ur.
•  Woolley originally believed it was
meant to be raised on a pole (like a
flag), and so named it the Standard
or Ur. Today, that theory is largely
The site, labeled “tomb PG 779” by
Woolley and his team, was the
largest royal cemetery in the city.
Standard of Ur, ca. 2600 BCE,
Fig. 1-14.
Other items found in the tomb which
also suggest the importance of the
tomb’s occupant include:
Gold helmets
Decorative, jeweled daggers
Gold Jewelry, beakers and bowls
Musical instruments
Horse-drawn chariots
Sacrificed bodies of servants,
musicians, charioteers and soldiers!
Materials include: Lapis lazuli, red limestone, bitumen, dimensions: 8 ½ x 19 ½ inches
Standard of Ur: “The Peace Side”
Now we get to the meat of our lesson: Look carefully to find the king.
Visual Analysis: How do you know which figure is the ruler? Be specific!
What else appears to be going on?
Standard of Ur: “The Peace Side”
Each row is known as a “register,” and shows specific activities.
On the top tier, both pictorially and socially is the king, he is the obvious focal point of the
majority of the other people depicted within the top register. He also appears abnormally
large! While all of the other occupants of the top register fit comfortably within the space, the
king is so large that his head breaks into the “ceiling” of the register space, even while seated
This is an example of the artistic technique known as “hierarchy of scale.”
Standard of Ur: “The Peace Side”
The overall story being told seems to relate to a great banquet. On the bottom two registers,
we see the gathering of food products-both harvested and livestock, which will be later
consumed by the participants in this banquet/ceremony taking place on the top row. Here, in
the presence of the king, his subjects seem to partake in libations and music. This is not only
the “peace side” it also appears to be the “party side.”
Sumerian Lyre
Another famous artifact from the Royal Tomb was a decorated stringed
instrument known as a lyre. Click on the link below to see a replica of this
instrument being played:
Standard of Ur: “The War Side”
Look carefully to find the king. Many of the same ideas can be applied to
this side, but the activities surrounding the king are quite different.
What do you notice about the two groups of people on the middle and
bottom register? Which group are the soldiers of the king? How are the
enemies represented? Be specific.
Hierarchy of Scale
Bigger = Better
This term refers to the artistic strategy
in which the largest figure is also the
most important. Here we see that not
only is the King the tallest figure, but
also stands in the exact middle with all
soldiers facing him, and also in the top
register. The artist makes it very clear
who is IN CHARGE in times of both
Materials include: Lapis lazuli, red limestone, bitumen, 8.5 x 19.5 inches
See more images of the Standard of UR:
Think of the adjectives you would use to describe the soldiers on the left
versus the figures on the right. Do those same terms apply to the
charioteers and those who are seeming to be trampled underfoot?
We have the organized, strong and defensive line of soldiers and the
naked, defeated prisoners of war, most of whom would become slaves.
See more images of the Standard of UR:
The Fall of Sumer
Ø  Around 2350 BCE, the Sumerian city-states began to fight among
each over access to fertile lands and water. As the ruling class, the
“stewards of the gods,” began to battling among one another they
also weakened one another which ultimately led to the collapse of
Ancient Sumer. Gradually, the northern people began to assume
positions of power over the southern Sumerian states.
Ø  In about 2334 BCE, Sargon (meaning “true king”) of Akkad
defeated other northern tribes and the Sumerian states and ruled
over the entire region. Sargon incorporated the Sumer lexicon of
deities into the Akkadian pantheon in order to ensure loyalty to the
new kingdom.
Ø  The location of the Akkad capital remains a mystery (it would be
later overthrown!), but key artifacts recovered illustrate how the
Akkadian rulers projected a sense of their authority through art.
Akkad Culture
(2332-2150 BCE)
The Akkadian rulers used the
visual arts to promote and reflect
the power of the ruling kings.
This copper portrait is believed by
some scholars to have been made
in the image of Sargon, the
founder of the Akkad Culture.
Others believe it was made in the
image of his grandson Naram-Sin,
who expanded the Akkad empire
even further.
Head of an Akkadian ruler,
ca. 2250-2200 BCE, Copper.
Akkad Culture
(2332-2150 BCE)
In what ways does this
sculptural work project
the authority of a ruler?
NOTE: This work is made of copper,
showing an advancement in artistic
technologies, but also would originally
been dazzling with glinting reflections of
light. (Think of the difference between a
shiny new penny with an older coin.)
Also, the eyes were inlaid with shell and
stone. The damaged areas are from
later rulers who ordered the destruction
of this statue.
Head of an Akkadian ruler,
ca. 2250-2200 BCE, Copper.
Akkad Culture
How does the style of this
portrait align with a more
authoritarian rule over a
unified Mesopotamia, as
opposed to the image of the
Sumerian priest-king who
was ruled the discreet
geographical locale of the
individual city-states?
Head of an Akkadian ruler
ca. 2250-2200 BCE
Copper, height: 12 inches
How are these two objects similar?
Akkad Culture
The formality of the portrait:
-Frontal gaze
-Serene, composed expression
The combination of idealized and
stylized features:
-Symmetry of the face
-Evenness of his countenance
-Stylization of the beard/hair
These are traditional characteristics
that will often be seen in the depiction
of ruling figures.
Head of an Akkadian ruler,
ca. 2250-2200 BCE
Copper, height: 12 inches
Akkad Culture
(2332-2150 BCE)
Take a moment to look over
what is taking place on the
carved image.
Look closely:
What is going on here?
What adjectives would you use to
describe the two groups of people?
How is this scene different than the
imagery of the Sumerian culture?
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin,
ca. 2254-2218 BCE,
Pink Sandstone, height: 6’ 7”
Akkad Culture
(2332-2150 BCE)
How is this scene different than the imagery of the
Sumerian scene of war? What is similar?
What seems more sophisticated?
Akkad Culture
The Victory Stele of Narim-Sin is a
symbolic image of the Akaddian
king’s mighty defeat of his enemies.
Notice how the battle is set in
a dramatic landscape, instead of
tiered registers, as seen on the earlier
Sumerian art objects. The landscape
is conveyed through a pair of trees,
meandering path, a mountain which
is taller even than Narim-Sin.
This is thought to be among the
earliest known depictions of the
landscape in the chronology of
“Western Art History.”
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin,
ca. 2254-2218 BCE,
Pink Sandstone, height: 6’ 7”
The Victory Stele of Narim-Sin is a symbolic image of the Akaddian
king’s mighty defeat of his enemies.
Looking back to the opening sentence of the previous page and you will notice
that the title of the artwork is written in italic type. This is how you should
format the name of an artwork’s title, in italic or underlined. This tells the
reader that you are referring to the artwork. In this case, I am writing about the
artwork titled Victory Stele of Narim-Sin, not the actual event or quote. In this
case, the title of the artwork contains the word “stele” which refers to the large
slab which is engraved with a specific message and text. However, not all
artwork titles are so descriptive.
Remember: every formatting and grammatical “tool” exists to create clarity.
Please be sure to always put any artwork title in italic or underline. Also, most
often artworks will be in Title Case, meaning that the first word and every word
3 letters or longer (except for definitive articles, such as “the”) should be begin
with a capital letter.
Note 1: quotation marks are NOT the proper formatting for an artwork’s title.
Note 2: Works of architecture are NOT put into italic, but written in Title Case.
Akkad Culture
What other specific techniques
did the artisans use to depict the
king and his troops as powerful
and victorious over his enemy?
What is the term for the artistic
technique seen here to illustrate to
the viewer the importance of the
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin,
ca. 2254-2218 BCE,
Pink Sandstone, height: 6’ 7”
Akkad Culture
Hierarchy of Scale:
Notice how the king stands nearly
twice the height of his foes!
Also notice he wears the horned
crown, a symbol of his rank, and
holds weapons of war.
His physique is youthful and
muscular, but he also is shown with
a full beard to denote his age and
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin,
ca. 2254-2218 BCE,
Pink Sandstone, height: 6’ 7”
Akkad Culture
“The original text written in Akkadian tells
us that this stele was made to celebrate the
victory of Naram-Sin, king of Akkad, over
the Lullubi, a mountain people of the
central Zagros region. Naram-Sin was the
grandson of Sargon, the founder of the
Akkadian empire and the first to unify the
whole of Mesopotamia in the late 24th
century BC. Naram-Sin reigned after his
uncle Rimush and his father Manishtusu,
making him the fourth sovereign of the
Notice how the words seem to descend from
the heavens, suggesting Narim-Sin has the
blessing of the gods, represented abstractly
here by the 3 star-like images.
Read more:
Ø  The Akkadians were overtaken by the Guti people,
Ø  c. 2230 BCE. Following the disruption of the Akkadian
rule, the Sumerians, who had lived under the rule of
the Akkadian kings, rose up against new invaders and
drove the Guti people from the region.
Ø  King Urnammu of Ur established a “Neo-Sumerian”
revival that would last about 200 years
Ø  After the relatively short Neo-Sumerian period, the
region was unified under the Babylon Dynasty
Ø  Babylon was first established as a minor city-state
during the Akkad empire.
Ø  The most famous ruler of Babylon was Hammurabi,
who after fortifying the city of Babylon united all of
Mesopotamia under his rule.
(1800-1600 BCE)
Hammurabi cast himself as “the favorite
shepherd” of the sun-god Shamash, stating
his mission “to cause justice to prevail in the
land and to destroy the wicked and evil, so
that the strong might not oppress the weak
nor the weak the strong.”
The Stele of Hammurabi is the earliest
known written code of law. The majority
of the 7’4” tall stele is covered in 3,500
cuneiform, which details the glory of
the king and then a list of the crimes
and punishments for the offenses.
Stele of Hammurabi, ca. 1780 BCE
Babylon Culture
Basalt, height: 7’4”
(1800-1600 BCE)
On top of the stele is a
scene depicting
Hammurabi greeting
Shamash, the sun god.
How does the image
authority as king?
How does it legitimize
the law code below?
What similarities can you read between these two images of the king?
Louis XIV, 1701, Artist: Hyacinthe Rigaud, Oil on canvas, 9’2” x 6’3”
Once again, we see the
artistic strategy of “hierarchy
of scale,” but who is actually
You might notice first that the
king appears to be ever so slightly
taller than Shamash!
Then you quickly look to realize
that the god is seated and would
easily tower over Hammurabi
should he stand.
However, that the king stands tall
and erect before the god (instead
of bowing or subservient) is also
quite telling. Note also, that it is
the god who bestows gifts upon
the mortal king, as opposed to the
king making an offering to the
immortal ruler.
Example Translations
of Hammurabi’s Law Code
If any one bring an accusation of any
crime before the elders, and does not
prove what he has charged, he shall, if
it be a capital offense charged, be put
to death. …
If any one steal the property of a
temple or of the court, he shall be put
to death, and also the one who receives
the stolen thing from him shall be put
to death. …
If any one steal cattle or sheep, or an
ass, or a pig or a goat, if it belong to a
god or to the court, the thief shall pay
thirtyfold; if they belonged to a freed
man of the king he shall pay tenfold; if
the thief has nothing with which to pay
he shall be put to death …
If a man wish to separate from a
woman who has borne him children,
or from his wife who has borne him
children: then he shall give that wife
her dowry, and a part of the usable
truct of field, garden, and property, so
that she can rear her children. When
she has brought up her children, a
portion of all that is given to the
children, equal as that of one son, shall
be given to her. She may then marry
the man of her heart. …
If a son strike his father, his hands
shall be hewn off.
If a man put out the eye of another
man, his eye shall be put out.
If he break another man’s bone, his
bone shall be broken.
The Fall of
The Babylon culture reached its
height under the rule of Hammurabi
Following his death, the empire
began a slow disintegration, and was
eventually sacked by the Hittites in
1595 BCE, followed by the Kassites
in 1531
The next 700 year period is
sometimes called a “dark age”
or “period of disunity.”
The next major culture to rise in the
region (to our current knowledge) is
the Assyrian
Assyrian Culture
(900-612 BCE)
The Assyrian Empire was founded in the
northern regions of Mesopotamia, which
had previously co-existed relatively
peacefully with the Babylonian culture.
The Assyrians rose as a major power in
the region in the 9th century BCE
Much of the extant art of the Assyrian
culture celebrates the power and
authority of the kings, who were
considered to be chosen by the gods as
their surrogates on earth.
Diagram of the Capital City
What do you notice about the
placement of the palace and
Which building do you think is for
the king? Which for the gods?
Assyrian Culture (900-612 BCE)
The Assyrian Palace and Temple (highlighted in red circle)
stood together on a raised platform 50 feet high, suggesting the
close relationship of the rulers and gods. But, look closely at this
Diagram of the Capital City.
Question: What else do you notice about the palace compound?
Learn more about the excavations
Assyrian Culture
(900-612 BCE)
•  The Assyrian Empire was founded
in the northern regions of
Mesopotamia, and had previously
co-existed relatively peacefully with
the Babylonian culture.
•  The Assyrians rose as a major
power in the region in the 9th century
BCE, and emerged as the region’s
major power of the period after the
“Period of disunity.”
•  The Assyrians are widely considered
by historians as a militaristic cultures.
As you will see, much of the extant art
of the Assyrian culture celebrates the
power and authority of the kings, who
were considered to be chosen by the
gods as their surrogates on earth.
Assyrian Culture
(900-612 BCE)
Conquest brought great wealth
and spoils of war to the Assyrians,
which is reflected in the great
palaces of the rulers which were
built throughout their empire.
The temple in the capital city was
brilliantly colored had at least 4 stages,
each about 18 feet high and different
color, and a spiral ramp wound around
it to the top.
The palace complex comprised about
30 courtyards and 200 rooms,
many decorated with monumental
imagery of the ruler coexisting with
guardian figures, stewards of the gods
and the deities themeselves.
As noted by the historian George Rawlinson, it is
the palaces of the kings which displays the wealth
and might of the Assyrian Empire, even more so
than their religious structures.
“Among the architectural works of the Assyrians,
the first place is challenged by their palaces. Less
religious, or more servile, than the Egyptians
and the Greeks, they make their temples
insignificant in comparison with the
dwellings of their kings, to which indeed
the temple is most commonly a sort of
appendage. In the palace their art culminates—
there every effort is made, every ornament
lavished. If the architecture of the Assyrian
palaces be fully considered, very little need be
said on the subject of their other buildings.”
Camden Professor of Ancient History in the University of Oxford
(900-612 BCE)
•  In other words, if you want to
understand the art and
architecture of the Assyrian
Culture, you look to the Royale
Palaces of the King.
Assyrian Culture
(900-612 BCE)
An inscription of the Assyrian
King Sargon II states:
“I built a city with [the labors
of] the peoples subdued by
my hand, whom [the gods]
Ashur, Nabu, and Marduk
had caused to lay themselves
at my feet and bear my
•  Having said all this:
What kind of imagery are
you expecting to see?
Take a moment to closely look at this mythological
creature. Write down what strikes you as the most significant
features of this figure.
Question: What purpose do you think this serves?
To illustrate the massive scale of the Lamassu statues, notice the man standing next to
the Lamassu on the right! Each individual works was carved from a single monolithic
stone, the end result weighs several thousand pounds and stands nearly 14 feet tall!
Excavations c. 1840s
The Lamassu is a composite
creature (part human-part
animal), it was carved from
Limestone c. 720-705 BCE.
They Lamassu stood at the gates
of the king’s palaces and served
an apotropaic function.
Apotropaic is an adjective that
means that it is designed to avert
evil influences or bad luck.
Therefore they can be seen as
protective forces.
The sheer scale and musculature
also evokes the power and
authority of the king to all those
who physically enter into the
palace building.
Food for though: Why does the Lamassu have five legs?
How does the use of 5 legs create two distinct impressions and
reinforce idea of the apotropaic function the Lamassu serves?
As we look at the following austere images in seemingly natural stone, the
stone panels are known as orthostats, remember that these carved stone
reliefs were originally brightly painted, and that after nearly 3,000 years (the
majority in neglect or buried in the earth) the paint has simply worn away.
Above is an artist rendering of how the palace interior may have originally
The Assyrian empire dominated Mesopotamia and all of the
Near East for the first half of the first millennium, led by a series of
highly ambitious and aggressive warrior kings. Assyrian society
was entirely military, with men obliged to fight in the army at any
time. State offices were also under the purview of the military.
Looking at the orthostats of the palace interiors, the connection
between the themes portrayed and style of portraiture and the
military ideology of the ancient Assyrian kings seems quite obvious!
Notice not only the activities taking place, but the artistic emphasis
on the musculature of nearly every human and animal rendered.
Among the many remarkable scene carved on the multiple palaces of
the Assyrian kings, one of the most famous is the: Lion Hunt relief,
from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh. ca. 645 BCE
The scenes are carved onto large slabs of gypsum stone called ____
(do you remember the term?). These large panels lined the lower
walls of the Assyrian Palaces and served an architectural purpose as
they protected the mud brick walls from moisture. They also served
the political purpose in spreading messages of authority and wealth.
And remember, these scenes were originally painted!
In the detail image above, we see the king engaged in the Royal Lion Hunt.
These were not hunting parties in the wild, but were staged events that took
place within an arena on the confines of the palace grounds.
Release the lions!
The entire process of the hunt is depicted over the course of a series
of orthostats. Seen here: the gate is lifted by a servant and the
powerful (and highly stylized) lions are released from their cages.
The Lion Hunt scenes
which decorated the
palace halls not only
celebrated the prowess
and strength of the king,
but also suggest his
power over the violence
of nature-which the lions
Around the edge of the
“battle area” guards
stand at the ready to
protect the king, just in
case things went awry
and the lions got lucky!
(though of course that
would not be something
that would be depicted on
the palace walls!)
Note: The stacked
figures were an artistic
convention to show depth
on the flat surface.
Assyrian Palace Panels on view at LACMA
Relief: King and eunuch attendant, 883–859 B.C.
Can you guess which figure is the king?
King and eunuch attendant, 883–859 B.C.
Neo-Assyrian period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II
Excavated at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu),
northern MesopotamiaAlabaster (gypsum)
Each panel height: 7 feet, 8 ¼ inches
The palace rooms at Nimrud were decorated with large stone slabs carved in
low relief, with brightly painted walls and ceilings and sculptural figures
guarding the doorways. The throne room contained narrative scenes
commemorating the military victories of Ashurnasirpal, while in other areas
of the palace were protective figures and images of the king and his retinue
performing ritual acts.On this relief slab, the king Ashurnasirpal II wears
the royal crown, a conical cap with a small peak, and a long diadem. He
holds a bow, a symbol of his authority, and a ceremonial bowl. Facing him, a
eunuch, the "beardless one," carries a fly whisk and a ladle for replenishing
the royal vessel. The peaceful, perhaps religious, character of the scene is
reflected in the dignified composure of the figures.
Assyrian Palace Panels on view at LACMA
Relief: King and eunuch attendant, 883–859 B.C.
As described on the previous page, The king (Ashurnasirpal II) is
identified by his attire. He wears the royal crown, a conical cap
with a small peak, and a long diadem. He holds a bow, a symbol of
his authority, and a ceremonial bowl. (LACMA)
Assyrian Palace Panels on view at LACMA
Relief: King and eunuch attendant, 883–859 B.C.
Visual Analysis: Think of combined role of iconography (as discussed on
previous pages) and style in the effectiveness of communicating the king’s
authority through these carved orthostats.
Among the many remarkable scene carved on the multiple palaces of
the Assyrian kings, one of the most famous is the: Lion Hunt relief,
from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal, Nineveh. ca. 645 BCE
Summary of Mesopotamia
•  The Mesopotamian era continues with a revival of the
Babylonion culture (Neo-Babylon) and then with the
might Achaemenid Persia. Much of both of these cultures
works was lost in subsequent centuries of war among
each other and the Greco-Persian wars.
•  A typical Art History survey dedicated to “Western Art”
would continue with art and architecture of these
cultures, but we will turn back to Ancient Egypt to
consider a few objects, not in terms of immortality (as we
did last week), but as objects that communicate the
power and authority of the Egyptian kings.
Achaemenid Persia
cylinder seal
votive offering
hierarchy of scale
register or frieze
ground line
incised lines
Ziggurat at Ur
Statuettes of Woshippers
Standard of Ur
Victory Stele of Narim-Sim
Stele with the Laws of
•  Lamassu
•  Lion Hunt Scene
•  Predynastic Period
ca. 3500-2575 BCE
–  The unification of
Upper and Lower
Egypt takes place
King Narmer
•  Old Kingdom
ca. 2575-2040 BCE
–  Great Pyramids at
What is the
Rosetta Stone?
Soon after the end of the fourth century AD,
when hieroglyphs had gone out of use, the
knowledge of how to read and write them
disappeared. In the early years of the
nineteenth century, some 1400 years later,
scholars were able to use the Greek
inscription on this stone as the key to
decipher them.
Soldiers in Napoleon's army discovered the
Rosetta Stone in 1799 while digging the
foundations of an addition to a fort near the
town of el-Rashid (Rosetta). On Napoleon's
defeat, the stone became the property of
the British under the terms of the Treaty of
Alexandria (1801) along with other antiquities
that the French had found.
Thomas Young, an English physicist, was the
first to show that some of the hieroglyphs on
the Rosetta Stone wrote the sounds of a royal
name, that of Ptolemy. The French scholar
Jean-François Champollion then realized that
hieroglyphs recorded the sound of the
Egyptian language and laid the foundations of
our knowledge of ancient Egyptian language
and culture.
Last week we focused of works that date to the Old Kingdom period,
but remains and artifacts have been found from Neolithic cultures along the
Nile River in Northern Africa that date back to c. 7000 BCE.
For this lesson, we will first consider a ceremonial object commemorating
what might be the most important moment of Egypt’s long history:
the inaugural unification of its kingdom.
In Predynastic times, Ancient Egypt was divided geographically and
politically into Upper Egypt (the southern, upstream part of the Nile Valley),
which was dry, rocky, and culturally rustic, and Lower (northern) Egypt, which
was opulent, urban, and populous. The imagery on The Palette of Narmer
symbolically depicts these two regions coming together under the jurisdiction
of a single ruler: King Narmer.
Palette of Narmer
Where is the king?
What do you notice about how he is depicted?
The Palette of Narmer is a ceremonial object that was rediscovered in
1898 by archeologists among a group of sacred objects buried at a temple
dedicated to the falcon god, Horus. It is believed that the object probably
was used in for ceremonial purposes before being ritually buried at the
temple. The temple was located in the city of Hierakonpolis which was then
the capital of the united Egypt in the pre-dynastic period.
It is fitting that this ceremonial object was found at a templ
in the capital city… The narrative told on both sides of the
panel tell the legendary story of the unification of Upper and
Lower Egypt by King Narmer.
In addition to hierarchy of
scale, There are numerous
artistic conventions taking
place on the Palette of
Narmer that tell the viewer
what is going on.
v The term: Iconography
refers both to the visual
images and symbols used in
a work of art as well as to
the study of those images.
v What images seem as
though they are symbolic
in nature?
Symbolic Attire
(or the iconography) of King Narmer
On the palette, we see the king wearing these crowns,
which are symbols of royalty.
Symbols of the Ruler
In the time it was made,
these symbols would have
been instantly
recognizable to the
viewers relating to specific
regions and authority
Just like you would never confuse a Pope Hat, King’s
crown or a princess tiara… the symbols see in the
Palette of Narmer would have been easily recognized to
the Ancient Egyptians
Iconography of Palette (top register)
On both sides of the palette, there are two similar looking figures with a
hieroglyphic symbol in between. What do they mean?
v In the middle, a horizontal fish is a pictograph meaning
v 2 images of Hathor, the cow goddess, is symbolically the
king’s mother/protector (remember, the kings of Egypt were
Iconography of Palette
(side one)
v King Narmer powerfully defeats his
enemy and is larger to show his status
(hieratic scale)
v Narmer wears the tall white crown
of Upper Egypt
v a servant carries his sandals,
bare feet suggest a divine event
v The falcon represents Horus, god of
Upper Egypt, standing triumphantly on a
head and papyrus, representing Lower
Egypt. This symbolizes his authority over
both regions.
v bottom register, dead prisoners shown
in disarray the feet of the king. How is
this similar to the enemies we saw in the
art of Ancient Mesopotamia?
Iconography of Palette
(side two)
v The upper registers are the
same on this side
v On the next tier, to the left,
Narmer wears the cobra
crown of Lower Egypt behind
a priest and his army as he
inspects beheaded &
castrated enemies (on the far
v intertwined necks of beasts
may represent unification of
v In the lowest register a
bull, another symbol for the
king, tramples his enemy and
breaks down the protective
walls surrounded a city
Before moving on… what is a pallet?
v The Palette of Narmer is a ceremonial
object based on a functional object, but was
never intended for actual use (it stands over 2
feet tall!)
v The depression in the palette is where the
black pigment used in the protective eye
makeup would be prepared for application
(similar to the functional pallets pictured below)
approx. 2' 1 high
The Palette of Narmer was one of several pallets which
have been discovered from the late pre-dynastic period,
such as this example from the British Museum, the Hunters'
Palette (c 3250-3100 BC).
Look familiar?
Last week this image was one of two statues
discussed in terms of its FUNCTION.
Do you remember what purpose the statue
In addition, how does this work also fit into
this lesson on Art and Authority?
Questions to consider:
What is your first impression of the the
What physical traits symbolize his power?
What symbolic images also tell the viewer
of his importance?
Look familiar?
Again… how does this work also fit into
this lesson on Art and Authority?
Questions to consider:
What is your first impression of the royal
What does the artisan stress about their
10.3 Menkaure and His Wife, Queen
Khamerernebty, Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, c.
2600 BCE. Slate, approximately 4' 6 1/2" high.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Notice how the artistic devices are not only
functional, but used to GLORIFY the
ruler’s image:
Visual characteristics:
²  idealized image
²  head held high, straight forward,
unfaltering stare, dignified
²  body depicted without flaw suggesting
youthful strength and vigor
²  Menkaure and Khamerernebty stand with
similar posture, with one foot slightly
ahead, suggesting forward movement.
²  Their almost equal height, and her embrace
of Menkaure suggests a she plays an
important role in the dynasty.
10.3 Menkaure and His Wife, Queen
Khamerernebty, Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, c.
2600 BCE. Slate, approximately 4' 6 1/2" high.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
•  Menkuare was a very popular ruler,
though it is uncertain just how long
he actually ruled!
•  The key piece of information which
describes the length of his rule has
been damaged over the millenia, and
so perhaps the exact year may never
be know.
•  He is believed to have been born
around (c. 2575– c. 2465 bce) but
those dates would put his age at 110
years old!
•  Though we don’t know he exact age
of death, we can assume he lived
longer than the youthful appearance
of this statue, which not only
suggests his immortality, but also his
power. How are the two related?
10.3 Menkaure and His Wife, Queen
Khamerernebty, Gizeh, Egypt, Fourth Dynasty, c.
2600 BCE. Slate, approximately 4' 6 1/2" high.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
In Conclusion
•  In addition to the images in this lesson,
what other objects/artworks in the first
4 weeks of the semester might also
relate to the theme of “authority”?
•  This week, I will also post a study guide
for the test next week which will include
possible images for a compare/contrast
short essay. For comparisons, think of
how there are multiple examples which
could easily fall within more than one
thematic topic, just as we just reexamined the statue of Menkuare and
His Queen from Ancient Egypt.
•  Part two will continue with images of
authority on Wednesday.