Sumeria nude

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By: L. Legrain View PDF. One of the best pieces of sculpture discovered at Ur by the t Expedition during its Fourth Campaign was the head of a girl in white marble with inlaid eyes of shell and lapis lazuli, a very important monument which forces us to modify our whole conception of Sumerian art.

There is here not only an extraordinarily finished delicacy of technique but an ideal of beauty not hitherto found in the same degree in the early sculptures of Mesopotamia. Before Sumerian art was practically unknown. Sumerian sculptors for fifteen hundred years before the days of Abraham and the Amorite kingdom of Babylon had been busy carving statues, statuettes, bas-reliefs and plaques out of shell, limestone, alabaster, and soft and hard diorite.

One by one their monuments entered the museums of the Old World, which long remained incredulous both of their antiquity and of their artistic value. Careful publication and minute study, however, have left no room for doubt. There is a group of eight statues in the round, some of natural size, representing the patesi Gudea, a Governor of Lagash in B. The master sculptor has now left the primitive stages far behind and can attack hard stones with a sure hand and positive knowledge. We may distinguish three classical periods of Sumerian sculpture: the Sargon and Naram Sin period, about B.

The Sargon and Naram Sin period is named after the kings of Agade, who founded a great empire. Their riches and power found natural expression in great artistic monuments. They belonged to a Semitic race named Akkadian, after their capital Agade or Akkad, a city not far from Babylon. Their monuments, statues, and bas-reliefs are comparable with the best sculptures of Lagash in the Gudea period, but their modelling is finer, their proportions are more elegant, and they have in large scenes a more spirited sense of composition.

Their masterpiece is the stela of victory of king Naram Sin, representing the king and his troops pursuing his enemies to the summit of the hills. The enemies fall prostrate under his feet and beg for mercy. The king stands in a noble attitude in full armour, with weapons in hand, stops the pursuit, and spares the last survivors.

Sumerian art reaches its full development in the Gudea period. It then becomes remarkable for simplicity of attitudes, for a sober and even severe style realized in large smooth surfaces on reliefs and statues. The sculptors have attained a national type of workmanship very different from the Egyptian. They are less preoccupied with proportions and they show a greater originality in details.

Their statues are often short and thick set, with he too large for the bodies, but the modelling of the nude parts, in spite of the hardness of the stone, the minute chiselling of hands and fingers, is very close to nature. The eyes are large, with straight and deeply cut eyelids slightly drawn upwards in the outer corner. The eyebrows are prominent, outlined by a deep furrow above and below, and their twin arcs always meet above the nose. These heavy ed eyebrows give strength and color to the face and are characteristic of Sumerian art, though Assyrian and Persian sculptors treated eyes and eyebrows in the same manner.

The eye sockets are in many cases deeply incised and hollowed to receive an inlaid eye made of a piece of shell. The iris may be a piece of black bitumen or of blue lapis lazuli. The Egyptians used paste or coloured stones in the same way. Large eyes of chalcedony, onyx, or carnelian, some of them bearing a cuneiform inscription, presented by the Cassite kings about B. Even the Greek chryselephantine statues combining gold and ivory are not independent of Eastern influence.

The noses of statues are generally broken, but when preserved they are usually found to be almost straight, or only slightly curved, with a rounded and rather large tip. The chin is small and firm. The cheeks are framed in a short oval with well marked cheek bones, akin to the Asiatic type found also in Syrians, Jews and Armenians. The short proportions so noticeable in the Sumerian sculptures are especially marked in the massive necks, large chests, and round shoulders, with shoulder line attached very high below the ear.

An expression of dignity and force redeems the awkwardness of the stumpy figures. The common attitude of many statues of standing or seated worshippers with their hands clasped, the right in the left, expresses the respectful immobility of the Oriental servant awaiting the orders of his master. Many a statue bears a votive inscription engraved on the sides of the throne, or even on the garments, across the shoulders or round the knees of the figure. Such statues were commonly deposited in a sacred place in front of the statues or emblems of the gods.

Their attitude, even in the smallest statue, is a religious one. They are votive offerings to remind the gods of the good deeds of the ruler, and to obtain a special blessing on his life and posterity. Unlike the Egyptian sculptor aiming at the material likeness which was so important for the cult of the dead, the Sumerian sculptor produces impersonal he of a conventional type.

Feminine statuettes are not rare. They were not excluded, as they generally were by the Assyrians. The severe Sumerian artist succeeded in his efforts to express feminine grace by a progressive attenuation of the national type to a point where the close resemblance to the Greek type is very remarkable. The same Greek feeling is noticeable in the first study of the folds, relief and arrangement of the garment attempted by the Sumerian sculptor. It is quite unknown in Egypt and Assyria. This refinement and softening of the Sumerian type is especially evident in the third classical period, that of the Third Ur Dynasty, about B.

The progress of schools of sculptors and the development of artistic taste had naturally brought about a change from the archaic types, where square and angular forms betrayed the original plan, by way of the progressively less severe forms of the Gudea period, to the smooth, slim, rounded forms of the third period, which aimed more and more at elegance.

Before the three classical periods representing the artistic efforts of a mixed population of Sumerians and Akkadians, must be placed an archaic, more purely Sumerian period, before B. No one who has studied the stela of the Vultures, the most important monument of this period, will ever mistake or forget the early Sumerian type with enormous curved nose, receding forehead, large almond shaped eyes, broad ears, short neck and wide chest, angular elbows, head all shaven and shorn, except in the case of the king and the god, finally the remarkable garment in the form of a woollen flounced petticoat, with thickly set hanging lappets in imitation of a fleece.

The small collection of stone he, statuettes and reliefs here presented belongs to the best periods of Sumerian sculpture between B. They will allow, for the first time in this country, a close view and study of the wonderful Sumerian art which surprises many and leaves the imagination marvelling at the beginnings of civilisation.

The small head of a girl with long undulating hair hanging over her shoulders and confined about the temples by a thin scarf, rolled like a coronet, is the gem of the collection. The eyeballs are inlaid, consisting of a piece of shell originally white but now turned gold-brown with age.

The irises are small discs of blue lapis. The vividness of the colors adds to the charm of the deep sunken eyes and gives life to the small round face with its quiet, thoughtful look. The head was found in at Ur, within the limits of the temple towards the southern angle, in ruins dating about B. It is an example of the beautiful, simple work of the best period, about the time of Gudea. The simple crownlike headdress, the long undulating hair simply parted, passing over the ears and covering the neck and shoulders, are distinctive notes in the costume of Sumerian women of that period.

A five-row necklace encircles the rather short neck. The great surprise is to find in the delicately carved and beautiful face so close an approach to the ideal Greek type. The eye. The large almond shaped eyes are beautiful and natural, and are drawn upwards at the corners with the slight affectation of most of the he of the Gudea type.

The small chin and rounded oval face are quite charming, and so also are the parted lips of which faint traces remain. The nose is broken as usual. The statuette when complete must have represented, as the Louvre statuette does, a young girl seated on a cubiform throne, with her hands modestly clasped on her breast or holding a round ampulla full of perfumed oil, a symbol of the prayers and offerings which were the prelude to a ritual sacrifice before the statues of the gods. The long floating hair of Ishtar, goddess of love, is the distinctive mark and privilege of the higher class: kings, princes, and princesses, and also of the high priestess, who is generally a sister or daughter of the king.

Her statue as a worshipper placed in the temple before the statue of the god was a votive offering for the life and the long and happy reign of the ruler. In the same manner the young Samuel was devoted by his mother to the service of the God of Israel. An inscription on the throne may have formulated the votive prayer and defined the memorial purpose of the statue, as we shall see in the case of the monument next described. This statue has been restored from many fragments found in scattered among the ashes and on the pavement of the Ningal temple at Ur.

The enemies who destroyed this delicate work of art were not the Elamites, the hereditary enemy from the eastern border, but newcomers in the Euphrates plain, the Amorites of Babylon. A Semitic race like the Akkadians, they hated the Sumerians of the south, and had no rest until they had broken their spirit of independence, destroyed the walls of Erech and Ur, and opened for their own profit the trading road toward the sea. The plundering of the temple and the cruel destruction of the monuments erected by former kings were invariable incidents of these military expeditions.

About the same time Abraham and his family left the desolated city and moved north to Harran, a junction of the caravan ro, where the Moon God had another sanctuary and trade was more prosperous. This small female figure sitting with quiet grace and dignity on her square throne is not only an extremely delicate piece of work, but is invaluable as a well dated record in the history of art in Sumeria. On three sides of the throne is a long inscription recording the dedication of the statue by Enannatum, the high priest, son of Ishme-Dagan king of Isin, who rebuilt the temple of Ningal.

The statue, therefore, was carved within ten years of B. The figure of the goddess has still that beautiful simplicity of attitude and refined elegance imparted to feminine statuettes since the Gudea period. She is dressed in the best court style. Her long floating hair is confined by a simple diadem, and she wears a long woollen tunic of material known as Babylonian kaunakes. Long hair and a garment of kaunakes are always confined to gods and kings.

The statue is most likely a figure of the high priestess, the daughter of the king and the personification of the Moon Goddess on earth. Her hands are clasped, the right in the left, in an attitude of respect. Nails and fingers are carved in minute detail. This humble attitude need not surprise us. All statues with a votive inscription were placed in a sacred place, facing the images of the gods or their symbols. This one is a votive offering for the life of the king.

Above the diadem six 1 copper nails still fixed in the original stone show that a mitrelike ornament probably of gold or of copper gilt adorned the head of the statuette. The mitre with one or four pairs of horns is the traditional emblem of divinity and would prove this figure wearing it to be that of the goddess herself.

The respectful attitude of the clasped hands is not exclusively reserved to servants but might express the submission of Ningal to her husband, the Moon God. It is found in other statues of goddesses, as we shall see in the next two examples. Only Ishtar is represented as a queen and a warrior, armed with bow and scimitar or holding ring and scepter. The older Sumerian goddesses play the minor parts of faithful wives and chatelaines in charge of the cattle, the fish pond, the poultry yard, the pantry, and the cellar.

Enough was left of the statue of Ningal to allow a complete restoration to be made. The crown of the head with a line of hair over the eyes and the ears is original. Part of the base and of the skirts, both elbows, the right shoulder, and the lower part of the face are restored. The missing face was the most disappointing defect in the statuette. Perhaps the neck ought to be a little shorter, as well as the lower jaw, the chin more prominent, and the oval of the face not quite so refined. The tunic worn by the goddess and made of the special woollen material, the kaunakes, is frequently represented on cylinder seals but not so often on statues.

It represents not a flounced garment but, in a conventionally symmetrical way, a material with long hair woven in imitation of the natural fleece of animals. The hair of the kid presented by a worshipper the fragment of sculpture illustrated on , is arranged in the same conventional way.

The hanging lappets of wool are disposed in zones following the lines of the weft, as in the modern Greek floccata. It has long hair only on one side. The rectangular shawl of kaunakes thrown over the left shoulder was worn by gods and goddesses and persons of high rank. On the present feminine statue it is made like a tunic with sleeves. In Assyria and also in Persia floccata is reserved to the gods. In Greece it is often a sumptuous covering on festival couches. The thick masses of hair of the goddess fall low on her shoulders in lovely curls in truly royal style.

The two shorter curls resting on her breast in front in pre-Victorian fashion have been copied from the statue next described, which was discovered in the same part of the ruins in the Ningal temple. They are usual in the representations of the goddess Ishtar, and have a juvenile grace of their own. The necklace of five strands is due to the same inspiration, as well as the loose upper border of the tunic resting modestly and naturally on the shoulders. The bare feet of the goddess rest solidly on the ground and, so far as they are represented, are a scrupulous imitation of nature, true to the smallest details.

In statues representing a standing posture, the fore parts of the feet only are carved, within a small hollow, in order to avoid the breaking of the statue by a too great weakening of the base.

Sumeria nude

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Sumerian Sculptures