ART 1303, Art History: Prehistoric-Gothic
Tues-Thurs 12:30-1:50 PM
The Assyrian Guardian Figure of 883-859 BCE is often placed near an entryway, within the palace. This figure, in particular, was located in the Northwest Palace of King Assurnasirpal II in Nimrud (Tombstone of the Guardian Figure). While this guardian is not as extravagant as the massive Lamassu, it resembles the similar animalistic characters found in Ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. In this paper, I will provide a detailed description of the Assyrian Guardian Figure.
Over the years, time and life have altered the way the quality of the image appears. Erosion has made its way to the edges of the artwork with cracks and marks that resemble digging or dropping. The slight discoloration shades on the clay image indicate a possibility of the artwork having been painted sometime in the past. On the surface, there are slight scratches which seem like the reason there is no paint. The top register edge has etches that appear to be writing of the Ancient Assyrian culture.
The image itself depicts a person with a basket in their hand. The basket looks like a woven basket that may have been made of wooden material. He appears to be picking a seed or fruit from the top of the image. The fruit, or seed, appears to come from flowers on a vine-like object that borders the artwork. The fruit, or seed, resembles a medium-sized, not-yet-ripe conifer cone.
The male guardian figure itself is covered in a mid-sleeved, robe-like shall and wearing a decorated skirt down to his knees. They are wearing bracelets on each wrist. On their neck is a collar-like necklace with mini designs. In his rope belt loop are two daggers. Upon his head is a feathered crown or head covering most likely as battle gear or a way to show that they are guardians.
The man is an anamorphic creature called an “apkallu”. An apkallu is a part bird and part human. This particular one has a hawk face and head and the body of a human male. He is quite muscular like a soldier. As well as a human lower half, the man has human-shaped feet and toes. They also have both a right hand and a left hand. He is picking the object with his right hand. The hair, underneath his feathered crown, is the stylized depiction of curly hair, swirled and flat circular-patterned hair, commonly used in sculptures of the popular Sumerian time period which continued in popularity following the Assyrian time period. On his back are massive angel-like wings. In total, the image contains 99 visible feathers. This includes the feathers on both his head covering and the wings on its back.
In conclusion, the analogous displays of Assyrian artistic culture are discovered through the historical approach of studying art. A man picking a fruit, or seed, given great strength and named as a guardian. Whether this was the guardian to Assurnasirpal II to the palace itself or meant to be placed within or outside of a tomb is unknown. The reality of its historical significance lies in the past culture from whence it was discovered from.
Tombstone of the Guardian Figure. 2018. Tombstone. 18 October 2018.