Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Plaque in the form of a tree

Period:
Neo-Assyrian
Date:
ca. 9th–8th century B.C.
Geography:
Mesopotamia, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu)
Culture:
Assyrian
Medium:
Shell
Dimensions:
1.85 x 0.14 in. (4.7 x 0.36 cm)
Classification:
Shell-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1958
Accession Number:
58.31.22
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 404
This delicate plaque is finely incised with the image of a stylized tree. The trunk is made up of hatched sections connected by volutes, topped by a fan-shaped group of nine branches, each ending in an element that resembles a bunch of fruit or a pinecone. The plaque is broken in several areas, but a fragment of an additional branch is preserved extending from the right side. Stylized trees similar to this one, widely known today as "sacred trees," are represented frequently on the monumental stone reliefs that decorated the walls of the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, also in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection (see, for example, 32.143.X). This small object was probably used as a decorative inlay for a piece of furniture or luxury object. Images of flourishing plant life seem to have evoked concepts of abundance and fruitfulness connected with the agricultural cycle, although we do not know whether the Assyrian "sacred tree" had other specific significance.
1957, excavated by Max Mallowan, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; ceded in the division of finds to the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; acquired by the Museum in 1958, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.
Wilkinson, Charles K. 1958. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 17 (2), Eighty-Eighth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1957-1958 (Oct., 1958), pp. 40-41.
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