Fragment of a bowl with a frieze of bulls in relief

Late Uruk–Jemdet Nasr
ca. 3300–2900 B.C.
Southern Mesopotamia
Steatite with chlorite
3 3/4 x 4 5/8 in. (9.5 x 11.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1950
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 402
This fragment of a bowl is decorated with a procession of bulls moving to the right, although only one complete animal survives. Typical of the Late Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods, the body of the animal is carved in low relief while its head, turned to face the viewer, is fully three-dimensional. Such extraordinary sculpture was developed at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., when cities emerged across Mesopotamia. Vessels of this type have been frequently found in palaces or religious structures, which suggests that they had a special function in such settings. After cylinder seals, they are the most important source of pictorial information for the period. The pictures are drawn from the natural realm, often portraying, as here, an ordered world of domesticated animals or, alternatively, the threat of potentially hostile creatures such as the lion.
1925, purchased by Joseph Brummer from Elias S. David; 1948, purchased by Alastair Bradley Martin from Joseph Brummer, New York; from 1948, on loan by Alastair Bradley Martin to the Museum (L.48.52); acquired by the Museum in 1950, gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, The Guennol Collection, Glen Head, NY.

“5000 Years of Art: A Loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Whatcom Museum of History and Art,” Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, Washington, December 4, 1976–October 2, 1977.

Schlotterback, Thomas. 1976. In 5000 Years of Art: an exhibition from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, exh. cat. Bellingham, Washington: Whatcom Museum of History and Art, no. 13, p. 39.