Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Head of a ruler, ca. 2300–2000 b.c.
    Iran or Mesopotamia
    Arsenical copper; H. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1947 (47.100.80)

    During the later third millennium B.C., successive territorial empires ruled Mesopotamia. The first—the Akkadian empire (2350–2150 B.C.)—was centered at Agade, a city still not located by archaeologists but probably near modern Baghdad. The Akkadian language of this empire was a Semitic language that differed greatly from Sumerian, which previously had been the predominant language of Mesopotamia. In addition to its political and economic innovations in administering a large territory, the Akkadian court produced innovative art in a powerful and naturalistic style. This magnificent head portrays a king of the late third millennium B.C. Its heavy-lidded eyes, prominent but unexaggerated nose, full lips, and enlarged ears all suggest a portrait of an actual person. While the date and place of manufacture of this piece have been much debated, its apparent similarity to the magificent bronze head found at Nineveh makes a late third millennium date most likely. The headdress, however, is similar to that of later Middle Elamite small figurines found at Susa, one of gold and the other of silver. The eyes, eyebrows and nose also seem to render a related ethnic type. In the case of the copper head, the statue may have been made for an Iranian ruler. The head is cast almost solid (making it extremely heavy); a dowel hole at the base would have served to join it to a body or other support, most likely for display in a temple setting.

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  • Head of a ruler, ca. 2300–2000 B.C.
    Iran or Mesopotamia
    Arsenical copper; H. 13 1/2 in. (34.3 cm)
    Rogers Fund, 1947 (47.100.80)

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