Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Paris' Best #1: The Louvre (Mesopotamia)

 Towards the end of our visit, we decided to see the Mesopotamia section, mainly so I could see the Code of Hammurabi, the stone tablet I have read about over the last few decades. It is the best preserved ancient law code and was created in 1760 BC in ancient Babylon. It was enacted by the sixth Baylonian king, Hammurabi. For a summary of the laws, Google "Babylonian Law Wikipedia" and you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know. Unfortunately, we searched the area several times, and I finally discovered a placard that stated the Code of Hammurabi was on loan to another museum. Rats!

Fortunately, there were several other displays in the Mesopotamia section that made it well worth the visit.
 These human-headed winged bulls were a very popular exhibit. They were protective genies called shedo or lamassu and were placed at certain gates or doorways of a city or palace. They date from 713 BC in the capital city of Dur Sharrukin, which is present-day Khorsabad, a village in northern Iraq.
Photos were continuously being taken in this area while we were there. I tried to wait until the area cleared out a little, but it never happened. Remember how, in the Sully section, I had mentioned that we should remember the stance on the Egyptian statues (stiff, one foot forward)?
 Here is a young woman, apparently from the middle East somewhere, basically posing in that same stance! I don't think she was intentionally trying to emulate ancient Egyptian art, I think that stance just came natural to her. And there you have it - my assuption that the pose in ancient Egyptian art was contrived and artificial is probably quite wrong.
 Amazingly, even though the Louvre tried to make these sculptures off limits using a trough in front of them, some members of the public still ignore the hints and use the artwork as their own personal resting spot. Sigh.
 This near life-sized seated statue of a Mesopotamian ruler was found at Susa in Iran where, according to the inscription he had carved on it, the Elamite king Shutruk-Nahunte took it in the twelfth century BC as a spoils of war.
This massive object is the capital (top) from one of 36 monumental columns which supported the roof of the apadana at Susa in Iran, in the Palace of Darius I circa 510 BC. This design is part of a typical Iranian tradition of Achaemenid art in combining elements taken from different civilizations to form a coherent stylistic ensemble.
 Note the timbers on the top. These timbers formed lattice work that supported the roof. Under this piece would have been a very long column. Each column stood 21 meters high. The capital in the Louvre was reconstructed from fragments of several columns discovered during excavations in 1884-86.
 This explains the variation in the stone color that can be seen in this photo. The veined gray limestone was brought to Susa from the Zagros Mountains.
 Here is a similar capital that is on display in Chicago.
 These buildings show how similar columns were used elsewhere in Iran - note the six columns in front of this building....
 ...and the numerous columns supporting this roof. Both of these drawings represent buildings in Iran from this time period.
 And finally, here are a few photos I found on the net of the actual ruins at Susa. Note the base of the column on the left, and several columns still standing on the right.


Sandy said...

So informative! Have you always loved history and architecture, etc....

this was cool.


J said...

Pretty much, Sandy.

I was an Architecture major for my first two years of college - interesting that you picked up on that bent of mine.

It really has only been in the last few years that I have become infatuated in photography beyond the inanimate (bldgs, cars, nature).

You'll see as this trip progresses, I begin to realize more and more that it is the people that make the picture. I start going much more in that direction in Milan.