Excavated at Fort Shalmaneser, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), Mesopotamia
H. 5 5/16 in. (13.5 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1960 (60.145.11)
Furniture decorated with carved ivory plaques was a symbol of wealth throughout the Near East during the early first millennium B.C. The ivories were carved in the major centers of Phoeniciaalong the eastern Mediterranean coastas well as in Syria and the Assyrian plains. Assyrian conquests beginning in the ninth century B.C. brought richly decorated furniture as booty and tribute from the cities of Syria and Phoenicia, and craftsmen taken prisoner from these cities probably continued to carve ivories on the Assyrian coast.
Some Phoenician-style ivories are solid plaques, while others are carved on one or both sides in a delicate openwork technique. Many originally were covered by gold leaf and inlaid with semiprecious stones or colored glass. Such rich combinations of ivory, gold, and brightly colored stones made the thrones of the Assyrian kings famous for their exquisite beauty. Most ivories carved in the Phoenician style were probably produced during the late eighth and seventh centuries B.C.
Phoenician ivory carvers were strongly influenced by the themes and style of Egyptian art owing to longstanding ties between the two cultures. Some Phoenician ivories illustrate purely Egyptian themes, but many use Egyptian motifs in entirely original compositions.
This Nubian tribute bearer exhibits traits of the Phoenician style, characterized by the slender, elongated form of the bearer and his animal gifts, the precision of carving and intricacy of detail, and the distinct Egyptian flavor of both pose and features.