Assyrian Relief: Winged Spirit or Apkallu Anointing Ashurnasirpal II from Kalhu (Nimrud), Iraq
ca. 875–860 B.C.E.
9th century BC
65 11/16 in. x 78 1/8 in. x 6 3/8 in. (166.8 cm. x 198.5 cm. x 16.2 cm.)
Ancient Near East, Assyrian
Medium and Support
gypsum (Mosul alabaster)
Gift of Dr. Henri Byron Haskell, Medical School Class of 1855. Critical support for the Assyrian Collection at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is provided by the Yadgar Family Endowment.
This relief shows the king Ashurnasirpal with an apkallu, a protective spirit, behind. The king wears the fez-and-tiara crown signaling his regal status. His long robe is tasseled with daggers tucked into the folds. The protective spirit wears a horned crown, short kilt, and sports wings that mark his divine status. He anoints the king with a “purifier,” which extends a fertile gift to the Assyrian king.
The relief’s condition is significant: the bow, a symbol of Ashurnasirpal’s martial prowess, has been broken in the middle and the king has suffered systematic mutilation. The king’s right hand has been severed, with his eyes, nose, and ears removed. His beard has been carefully cut, and his feet and Achilles tendons surgically excised. On this defaced relief, a ghostly silhouette appears opposite the king. Crudely rendered and executed with obvious haste, the new figure approaches the king as conqueror. This disfigurement coincided with the sack of Kalhu (modern Nimrud) by the Medes and Babylonians at the end of the seventh century BCE. The conquered had finally exacted revenge on the Assyrians.
Critical support for the Assyrian Collection at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is provided by the Yadgar Family Endowment.
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