Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria, and Cupbearer, ca. 1943, printed 1982
Charles Sheeler (American, 1883–1965)
Gift of the Mezzanine Gallery, 1982 (1982.1188.4)
Charles Sheeler was employed as a staff photographer by the Metropolitan Museum from 1942 to 1945. During that time, he documented works of art from various curatorial departments throughout the Museum. A number of his photographs were reproduced in Museum publications, including two books about the Egyptian art collection and one book focusing on Assyrian reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. Sheeler photographed this ninth-century sculpture (32.143.4), carved in low relief on slabs of alabaster, both as a large-scale work of art and as a series of details. In this image, he isolated a small area of a complex narrative scene. The overall panel depicts a religious ritual in which the bearded king faces a male attendant; however, Sheeler cropped this photograph to include only the left arm and right upper arm of the servant. His composition emphasizes the relief's tightly interconnected forms, while his skillful use of lighting reveals the subtle molding of the figure's anatomy and the elaborate detail of his sleeve.