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Ancient Sumerian Gypsum Mask

This mask is almost intact. It certainly belonged to a composite statue, of which only the anterior part of the head is preserved sculpted in the round. The eyes are hollow and were made of another material. One can see the cheekbones, the triangular and prominent nose, the small horizontal mouth and the undulating line of the eyebrows; the groove around the mouth probably served to affix a beard, proving that the figure represented is a man. The back is smooth and slightly concave. This face is remarkable for its structural and stylistic qualities. The rigid construction of the head – punctuated by the horizontal axes (eyebrows, eyes, nostrils, mouth) and the vertical axis in the center of the face (junction of the eyebrows, bridge of the nose) - is perfectly balanced by the delicate surface and the round, undulating lines of the contours of the eyes and eyebrows. This mask may have belonged to a praying figure, a well-known iconographic type in Mesopotamian art. These statues (men or women, sometimes even kings and dignitaries, generally standing with their joined hands clasped on their chests) were placed in the temples on benches around the base of the walls. These composite statues (i.e. made of various materials) are one of the most significant examples of the artistic heritage of Sumerian sculptors. Already existing in the 4th millennium (Uruk, Djemdet Nasr), this type of sculpture was very successful throughout Antiquity, not only in Mesopotamia, but also in Elam, in Palestine and in the lands of Urartu. It is difficult to have a clear idea of the final appearance of a composite work, since no complete example has survived. The body of the statuette was probably of wood or bronze. Certain elements could have been covered with silver or gold foil.En savoir plus

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