Head of a ruler

Period: Early Bronze Age

Date: ca. 2300–2000 B.C.

Geography: Iran or Mesopotamia

Medium: Copper alloy

Dimensions: 13 1/2in. (34.3cm)

Classification: Metalwork-Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1947

Accession Number: 47.100.80

Description

The identity of this lifesize head and where it was created remain a mystery. The expert craftsmanship and innovative technology involved in shaping it and casting it in copper alloy, a very costly material, indicates that it represents a king or elite person. The nose, lips, large ears, heavy-lidded eyes, and modeling of the face are rendered in a naturalistic style. The dark, empty spaces of the eyes were probably originally inlaid with contrasting materials. Patterns in the elegantly coiffed beard and well-trimmed mustache and the curving and diagonal lines of the figure’s cloth turban can still be seen beneath the corroded copper surface. These aspects of personal appearance further support the identification of this image with an elite personage. Furthermore, the head’s unusually individualized features suggest that it might be a portrait. Were that to be true, the head would be a rare example of portraiture in ancient Near Eastern art.

Recent examination has revealed that the head, long thought to be virtually solid, originally contained a clay core held in place by metal supports. It may be among the earliest known examples of lifesize hollow casting in the lost-wax method. A plate across the neck incorporates a square peg originally set into a body or other mount, which may have been made of a different material.

Adapted from, Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators (2010)

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