Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ivory fragment

Period:
Neo-Assyrian
Date:
ca. 9th–7th century B.C.
Geography:
Mesopotamia, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu)
Culture:
Assyrian
Medium:
Ivory
Dimensions:
3.27 x 2.09 x 0.63 in. (8.31 x 5.31 x 1.6 cm)
Classification:
Ivory/Bone-Reliefs
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1962
Accession Number:
62.269.11
Not on view
This plaque has a flat back and a raised surface, carved in relief with a central design resembling plaited hair or tufts of hair, bordered at each side with a plain strip and a fluted edge. It must have been part of another object such as a statue or piece of furniture, but was found as a fragment, making it difficult to reconstruct the original design. Carved ivory pieces such as this were widely used in the production of elite furniture during the early first millennium B.C. They were often inlaid into a wooden frame using joinery techniques and glue, and could be overlaid with gold foil or inlaid with colored glass or stone pieces to create a dazzling effect of gleaming surfaces and bright colors.

Built by the Assyrian king Ashurnasirpal II, the palaces and storerooms of Nimrud housed thousands of pieces of carved ivory. Most of the ivories served as furniture inlays or small precious objects such as boxes. While some of them were carved in the same style as the large Assyrian reliefs lining the walls of the Northwest Palace, the majority of the ivories display images and styles related to the arts of North Syria and the Phoenician city-states. Phoenician style ivories are distinguished by their use of imagery related to Egyptian art, such as sphinxes and figures wearing pharaonic crowns, and the use of elaborate carving techniques such as openwork and colored glass inlay. North Syrian style ivories tend to depict stockier figures in more dynamic compositions, carved as solid plaques with fewer added decorative elements. However, some pieces do not fit easily into any of these three styles. Most of the ivories were probably collected by the Assyrian kings as tribute from vassal states, and as booty from conquered enemies, while some may have been manufactured in workshops at Nimrud. The ivory tusks that provided the raw material for these objects were almost certainly from African elephants, imported from lands south of Egypt, although elephants did inhabit several river valleys in Syria until they were hunted to extinction by the end of the eighth century B.C.
1960, 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 1962, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.
Herrmann, Georgina. 1986. Ivories from Nimrud IV: Ivories from Room SW 37 Fort Shalmaneser. London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, p. 253, no. 1475, pl. 398.
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