Formal Analysis: the Cylinder Seal and the Ashurbanipal Hunting Lions

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Formal Analysis: The Cylinder seal and The Ashurbanipal hunting lions The purpose of this paper is to examine the differences and similarities between early Akkadian and Assyrian art forms by comparing two figural sculptures, the Cylinder Seal (Ca. 2254 – 2193 BCE) and the Ashurbanipal hunting scene (Ca. 645 – 640 BCE). Due to cultural and periodical differences, it is unavoidable to find varying mastery of techniques, negotiated objects or subjects being depicted in the sculptures. These art works, however, are very similar with respect to their overall purpose and the manner by which early artists represented sacred persons or deities in general. And these commonalities go beyond time and provide a coherent and invariable view of Mesopotamian art and culture. As will be discussed in the succeeding paragraphs, both figural sculptures highlight the conquering power of the king and the deity, and suggest that the virtue of the higher being is to successfully protect the empire from its enemies.

About 5’4” high, the Ashurbanipal hunting lion can be traced back during the reign of King Ashurbanipal (Ca. 645-640) of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The Cylinder Seal, on the other hand, is much smaller (about 4.2 cm by 2.5 cm) and older (during the reign of Naramsin, Ca. 2254 – 2153 B.C.). These two figures, however, are very similar in terms of how they portray the king and the deity. It should be noted that both sculptures successfully portray the presence of higher beings without using the hierarchy of scale. In the Ashurbanipal hunting lion sculpture, symbols such as the headdress, the sword, and jewels suggest the royal status of the king. Similarly, the Cylinder seal uses wings with weapons, and the helmet with multiple horns to highlight Ishtar’s ultimate divinity. Using a combination of perspectives, the sculpture also suggests that Ishtar’s divinity is absolute and supreme; the ‘less’ important goddess who, by raising her hands, worships Ishtar is...
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