Thursday, January 12, 2017

Head of an Akkadian Ruler (Sargon of Akkad?) 2200 BCE Nineveh, Iraq Akkadian

Form:  Made from bronze, this portrait head was probably part of a larger work.  Perhaps a full figure.  The shape and proportions of the face and head are naturalistic but the shape and texture of the eyebrows and hair are stylized in a geometric fashion.  Other stylizations or distortions occur in the exaggerated size of his eyes and nose.  These stylizations and exaggerations are attempts to idealize this ruler and make him more handsome or beautiful than he probably was according to the ideals of physical perfection in the ancient near east. 

Iconography:  In most cultures, beauty and goodness are equated as being one in the same thing.  Certainly the cultures of Mesopotamia felt this way as well.  Therefore the portraits beauty is also equated with Sargon's inner beauty and or virtue.  His "virtuous" nature is symbolically enhanced by his beard.  Beards are icons of wisdom and because in order to grow a beard one needs to have matured to appoint beyond childhood.  (This same idea is evidenced in several versions of the Arthurian legends in which although King Arthur was able to pull the sword from the stone, his brothers still refer to him as "beardless"  and therefore too inexperienced or young to rule.

Context:  This statue is not in its original state.  This head was once part of a complete statue that was vandalized.  The ears were mutilated, the eyes gouged out, and the ears and part of the beard broken off.  It has been vandalized (literally defaced) in order to dishonor the ruler it once represented.  Originally the eyes in this head would have been inlaid with precious and semiprecious stones. 

The tearing down of effigy monuments to symbolize the destruction or change in a regime is common to every era.  When US troops "liberated" Iraq in 2004 many of the statues of Sadam Hussein were either defaced or torn down from there pedestals.  In ancient Egypt, often older monuments constructed by previous pharaohs were recarved to resemble the newer rulers.  

Sargon the Great of Akkad is the first in a long (and possibly ever-extending) line of people whose life is driven by conquest. He was the first emperor of the world’s first empire. However, like most of the people who followed him, his empire didn’t last long.

According to legend, Sargon’s mother was “changeling,” meaning a demon or a prostitute. He was probably born around 2350 BCE. He served as the cup-bearer of a king of the Sumerian city-state of Kish, but the king, sensing something divine in him, had Sargon killed. Sargon escaped the plot, rallied some tribesmen to his cause, and built a new city north of Sumer – Akkad. Sargon’s career has soared ever since. From Akkad, his armies blazed southward to conquer Sumer, Kish and all. From the Persian Gulf, he made a northwestward sweep to Lebanon.

The Akkadian Empire was a very wealthy empire; it derived its wealth not just from plunder but also from trade. Sumer was smack in the middle of the trade routes that connected the Indus Valley, Egypt, and Mediterranean civilizations. Akkad wasn’t actually the first city to enjoy the benefits of trade in the Mesopotamian region, and it wasn’t going to be the last.

Sargon tried to keep his empire in the hands of his sons, but his successors lacked Sargon’s power; the city-states of Sumer rebelled against Akkad, destroying the Akkadian Empire. 

http://art-and-art-history-academy.usefedora.com/

This is part one of a year-long college-level survey course in art history. This course covers world art history from its prehistoric origins until the European Renaissance around 1300 A.D.

This course is designed as a basic college-level survey of art history. Although lectures are closed-captioned and I provide an online textbook as well as study guides and worksheets.

This course is the actual content of a course I taught at an accredited college in California called Ohlone college.

I designed this course as a series of clear, non-jargon laden video lectures and texts designed to help any student who wants to pass AP art history and or any beginning level art history survey course.