Assyrian art

Assyrian art. An Assyrian artistic style distinct from that of Babylonian art (see Sumerian and Babylonian art), which was the dominant contemporary art in Mesopotamia, began to emerge c.1500 B.C. and lasted until the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The characteristic Assyrian art form was the polychrome carved stone relief that decorated imperial monuments. The precisely delineated reliefs concern royal affairs, chiefly hunting and war making. Predominance is given to animal forms, particularly horses and lions, which are magnificently represented in great detail. Human figures are comparatively rigid and static but are also minutely detailed, as in triumphal scenes of sieges, battles, and individual combat. Among the best known of Assyrian reliefs are the lion-hunt alabaster carvings showing Assurnasirpal II (9th cent. B.C.) and Assurbanipal (7th cent. B.C.), both of which are in the British Museum. Guardian animals, usually lions and winged beasts with bearded human heads, were sculpted partially in the round for fortified royal gateways, an architectural form common throughout Asia Minor. At Nimrud carved ivories and bronze bowls were found that are decorated in the Assyrian style but were produced by Phoenician and Aramaean artisans. Exquisite examples of Assyrian relief carving may be seen at the British and Metropolitan museums.

See R. D. Barnett, Assyrian Palace Reliefs (1960); A. Parrot, The Arts of Assyria (1961); T. A. Madhloom, The Chronology of Neo-Assyrian Art (1970); H. A. Groenewegen-Frankfort, Arrest and Movement (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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