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The Dying Lion (Neo-Assyrian, ca. 645-640 B.C.)


© The Trustees of the British Museum; used with permission

The Dying Lion (Neo-Assyrian, ca. 645-640 B.C.). From the North Palace of Ashurbanipal. Nineveh, northern Iraq. Stone. H. 16.5 cm, W. 30.6 cm, Th. 2.5 cm

© The Trustees of the British Museum
Archaeological evidence for the Assyrian civilization's presence in the valley of northern Iraq's Tigris River dates back to the Third Millennium B.C. The Assyrians reached their height of cultural sophistication 2000 years later, as evidenced by their elaborate palace art and architecture in the cities of Nimrud and Nineveh. In addition, Nineveh's famous library archived some 30,000 baked clay tablets in cuneiform (wedge-shaped) writing; ancient works of astronomy, divination, law, literature, magic, mathematics and medicine were recorded on them.

Among the artistic wonders from the North Palace of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal (r. 668-631 B.C.) is a relief sculpture called The Dying Lion (ca. 645-640 B.C.). It portrays the intentional slaughter of a massive feline wounded by an arrow during a royal hunt. Lunging forward, the maimed beast violently spews forth streams of blood from its gaping mouth. In Assyrian culture, lions represented forces opposed to the accomplishments of urban society. Artistic renderings of them being killed by Assyrian monarchs suggest the king's triumph over such perceived forces of evil. The Dying Lion joins other palace reliefs, precious ivories, bronze, ceramic and glass bowls and vessels, clay cuneiform tablets, cylinder seals and statuary from the Ninth to the Seventh Centuries B.C. in Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum.

"Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum" is open from April 2 through September 30, 2007 at the Museo Arqueologico Provincial de Alicante, Dr. Gómez Ulla Square, 03013 Alicante, Spain (Telephone: 965 149 000; Website). The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM to 12:00 Midnight and Sunday from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

This picture comes from one of the many special art exhibitions available to you during Summer 2007. To view the full list of shows, please see this page.


Stan Parchin, Senior Correspondent for Museums and Special Exhibitions, is a specialist in ancient, late-medieval and Renaissance art and history, and a regular contributor to About Art History. You may read all of his Special Exhibition and Catalogue Reviews here.
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