Statue of Gudea

ca. 2090 B.C.
Mesopotamia, probably from Girsu (modern Tello)
17 3/8 x 8 1/2 x 11 5/8 in. (44 x 21.5 x 29.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1959
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The Akkadian Empire collapsed after two centuries of rule, and during the succeeding fifty years, local kings ruled independent city-states in southern Mesopotamia. The city-state of Lagash produced a remarkable number of statues of its kings as well as Sumerian literary hymns and prayers under the rule of Gudea (ca. 2150–2125 B.C.) and his son Ur-Ningirsu (ca. 2125–2100 B.C.). Unlike the art of the Akkadian period, which was characterized by dynamic naturalism, the works produced by this Neo-Sumerian culture are pervaded by a sense of pious reserve and serenity.

    This sculpture belongs to a series of diorite statues commissioned by Gudea, who devoted his energies to rebuilding the great temples of Lagash and installing statues of himself in them. Many inscribed with his name and divine dedications survive. Here, Gudea is depicted in the seated pose of a ruler before his subjects, his hands folded in a traditional gesture of greeting and prayer. The Sumerian inscription on his robe lists the various temples that he built or renovated in Lagash and names the statue itself, "Gudea, the man who built the temple; may his life be long."

  • Provenance

    Probably collected at Tello with other statues in 1924; [1930s, Feuardent]; [1930s, I.E. Géjou]; [by 1958, Elias S. David, New York]; acquired by the Museum in 1959, purchased from Elias S. David, New York.

  • Exhibition History

    "In the Presence of Kings," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 8–September 4, 1967.

    "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, May 8–August 17, 2003.

  • References

    Scheil, Vincent. 1930. "Nouvelles statues de Gudea." Revue d'Assyriologie 27 (4), pp. 163-164, pls. III, IV.

    Woolley, C. Leonard. 1935. The Development of Sumerian Art. London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1935, pl. 61a,b.

    Parrot, André. 1948. Tello: Vingt campagnes de fouilles (1877-1933). Paris: Albin Michel, p. 167, pl. XVIa.

    Redmond, Roland L., and James J. Rorimer. 1959. "Review of the Year 1958-1959: Report of the President and of the Director." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 18 (2), Eighty-Ninth Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year 1958-1959 (Oct., 1959), p. 34.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. 1960. "The Third Millenium B.C." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 18 (8), Art of the Ancient Near East (Apr., 1960), p. 251, fig. 10.

    Davidson, Marshall B., ed. 1962. The Horizon Book of Lost Worlds. New York: American Heritage Pub. Co., frontispiece and p. 149.

    Glubock, Shirley. 1963. The Art of Lands in the Bible. New York: Atheneum, p. 47.

    Crawford, Vaughn E. et al. 1966. Guide to the Ancient Near East Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 12, fig. 16.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1970. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries, exh. cat. New York: Dutton, no. 5, p. 78.

    Strommenger, Eva. 1971. "Gudea." Reallexikon der Assyriologie Band III, 9, p. 682, no. 6.

    Johansen, Flemming. 1978. Statues of Gudea: Ancient and Modern. Mesopotamia 6. Copenhagen: Akademisk Forlag, pp. 24-25, p. 45, note 74, pls. 84-87.

    Schlossman, Betty L. 1978-1979. "Portraiture in Mesopotamia in the Late Third and Early Second Millennium B.C., Part 1: The Late Third Millennium." Archiv für Orientforschung 26, pp. 59-60, fig. 4.

    Hibbard, Howard. 1980. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harper and Row, fig. 112, p. 53.

    Detroit Institute of Arts. 1982. Gudea of Lagash, exh. cat. Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, p. 2, fig. 2.

    Suter, Coral, and Marshall Croddy. 1983. Of Codes and Crowns: The Development of Law. Los Angeles: Constitutional Rights Foundation, p. 20.

    Imai, Ayako. 1983. In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 4.

    Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1983. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide, edited by Kathleen Howard. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 53, fig. 20.

    Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, p. 7, fig. 2.

    Pittman, Holly, in collaboration with Joan Aruz. 1987. Ancient Art in Miniature: Near Eastern Seals from the Collection of Martin and Sarah Cherkasky. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, p. 25, fig. 13.

    Cifarelli, Megan. 1998. "Gesture and Alterity in the Art of Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria." The Art Bulletin 80 (2), p. 216, fig. 10.

    Muscarella, Oscar W. 2003. "Seated statue of Gudea." In Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, with Ronald Wallenfels. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 305, pp. 428-429.

    Muscarella, Oscar White. 2005. "Gudea or Not Gudea in New York and Detroit: Ancient or Modern?" Source: Notes in the History of Art 24, pp. 6-18, figs. 1a-b.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History