These twelve massive carved alabaster panels, on view concurrently for the first time, dominate the walls of the Brooklyn Museum Hagop Kevorkian Gallery of Ancient Near Eastern Art. Ingeniously brightly painted, they once embellished the vast palace of King Ashur-nasir-pal II (883–859 B.C.E.), one of the greatest rulers of ancient Assyria. Achieved in 879 B.C.E. at the site of Kalhu (modern Nimrud, slightly north of what is now Baghdad, Iraq), the palace was decorated by skilful relief-carvers with these majestic images of kings, divinities, magical beings, and sacred trees.
In 879 B.C.E., King Ashur-nasir-pal II celebrated the completion of his palace at Kalhu (the Arabic and Aramaic name for an ancient Assyrian city, located thirty kilometres south of the city of Mosul, and five kilometres south of the village of Selamiyah, in the Nineveh plains in northern Mesopotamia) by hosting a banquet for 69,574 guests, but the grand palace was soon deserted and omitted.
In 1840, nearly three thousand years later, a young English diplomat named Austen Henry Layard noticed an unusually large mound while rafting down the Tigris River. He returned in 1845 to exhume the remains of the palace, conveying his discoveries to the British Museum in London. He sent numerous monumental sculptures and relief-decorated slabs that the museum sold some of them, including these twelve reliefs. In 1855, the expatriate American Henry Stevens purchased the reliefs and shipped them to Boston. Helpless to raise funds for the reliefs there, he sold them to James Lenox for the New-York Historical Society. In 1937, the New-York Historical Society lent them to the Brooklyn Museum and in 1955, Hagop Kevorkian, the New York collector and merchant, donated the funds to purchase and install the reliefs in the renamed Hagop Kevorkian Gallery of Ancient Near Eastern Art at the Brooklyn Museum.
Other objects from the Ancient Near Eastern collection in the Hagop Kevorkian Gallery include such distinct patterns of religious equipment as a bronze statuette of the sun god Shamash and a small animal-headed cart meant to hold liquid. Among a group of female figurines is one that dates from the fifth millennium B.C.E. — perhaps the oldest work on view in there. The Sumerian culture of the third millennium B.C.E. is represented by finely wrought examples of jewellery in gold and semi-precious stones. From the Achaemenid Persian Empire, which succeeded the Assyrians, comes pieces of palace relief and sculpture, as well as remnants of gold jewellery and silver vessels. Although each of these Near Eastern cultures had its own tradition, they frequently borrowed themes and artistic styles from one another. Specific subjects, such as lions and animal-headed monsters, were replicated for centuries in the lands that are now Iraq, Iran, and Turkey.
With funding from the State of New York, the Hagop Kevorkian Gallery has been renovated with two newly sloped floors designed to enhance wheelchair access. The floors, both inclined less than eight percent, facilitate admittance to the gallery, the Beaux-Arts Court, and the East Wing galleries. The work was completed in fall 2009.
To reckon is that Ashurnasirpal II’s policies may have been unmerciful, but they were also effective in maintaining control of the population. Through his ruthless campaigns, the resettlement of populations, and his careful administration, Ashurnasirpal II consolidated the political entity that would become the greatest empire in the ancient Near East and established his name among the most memorable Assyrian kings.
In which regards to fees, the suggested contributions are: Adults €9.00 EUR, Seniors and Students €5.00 EUR, Members and Children under twelve-years-old and first Saturday of the month 17:00 to 23:00, the entrance remains free.
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