Two Panels with striding lions

ca. 604–562 B.C.
Mesopotamia, Babylon (modern Hillah)
Ceramic, glaze
38.25 x 89.5 in. (97.16 x 227.33 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1931
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The Assyrian Empire fell before the combined onslaughts of Babylonians and Medes in 614 and 612 B.C. In the empire's final days, Nabopolassar (r. 625–605 B.C.), who had been in Assyrian service, established a new dynasty with its capital in Babylon. During the reign of his son, Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–562 B.C.), the Neo-Babylonian empire reached its peak. This was largely attributable to Nebuchadnezzar's ability as a statesman and general. He maintained friendly relations with the Medes in the east while vying successfully with Egypt for the control of trade on the eastern Mediterranean coast. He is well known as the biblical conqueror who deported the Jews to Babylon after the capture of Jerusalem.
    During this period Babylon became the city of splendor described by Herodotus and the Old Testament Book of Daniel. Because stone is rare in southern Mesopotamia, molded glazed bricks were used for building and Babylon became a city of brilliant color. Relief figures in white, black, blue, red, and yellow decorated the city's gates and buildings.

    The most important street in Babylon was the Processional Way, leading from the inner city through the Ishtar Gate to the Bit Akitu, or "House of the New Year's Festival." The Ishtar Gate, built by Nebuchadnezzar II, was a glazed-brick structure decorated with figures of bulls and dragons, symbols of the weather god Adad and of Marduk. North of the gate the roadway was lined with glazed figures of striding lions. This relief of a lion, the animal associated with Ishtar, goddess of love and war, served to protect the street; its repeated design served as a guide for the ritual processions from the city to the temple.

  • Provenance

    1902, excavated by R. Koldewey on behalf of the German Oriental Society; 1926, ceded to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum, in the division of finds; acquired by the Museum in 1931, purchased from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Vorderasiatisches Museum.

  • References

    Dimand, Maurice S. 1931. "Two Babylonian Reliefs of Enameled Brick." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 26 (5), pp. 116-118.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1931. Loan exhibition of ceramic art of the Near East, exh. cat. New York : The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 1, p. 3, pl. 1.

    Glubock, Shirley. 1963. The Art of Lands in the Bible. New York: Atheneum, p. 18.

    Crawford, V. et al. 1966. Guide to the Ancient Near East Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 30, fig. 47.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1970. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries, exh. cat. New York: Dutton, no. 58, p. 111.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1972. Guide to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 52, fig. 19.

    Oates, Joan. 1979. Babylon. London: Thames and Hudson, pp. 152-156, fig. 104.

    Hibbard, Howard. 1980. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harper and Row, p. 56, fig. 99.

    Imai, Ayako. 1983. In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 24.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1983. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 56, 57, fig. 27.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, pp. 12-13, fig. 9.

    Porter, Barbara A. 1986. Art of the Ancient Near East: Permanent galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 6.

    Van De Mieroop, Marc. 2007. A History of the Ancient Near East ca. 3000-323 BC, Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, p. 279, fig. 14.3.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History