Assyrian statue (BM 124963)
The Assyrian statue (British Museum number 124963) was originally set up near the temple of Ishtar in Nineveh (near the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq). The statue remains the only known Assyrian statue of a naked woman. The inscription shows it was intended "for titillation" or "to be alluring", and may represent an attendant of Ishtar, or Ishtar herself in her role as the goddess of love. The statue was first dated by E. A. Wallis Budge as being c.1080 BCE.
This is a limestone carved statue of a woman. The statue is just smaller than life-size at 97 centimetres (38 in) high and 47 centimetres (19 in) wide at the shoulders and narrows to 28 centimetres (11 in) wide at the waist. There is a cuneiform inscription on the back of the statue which states that king Ashur-bel-kala erected it for the people.
Most of the surface detail has been lost, but the details of the pubic hair remain visible and carefully carved. When exhibited in a British Museum exhibition in 2018/19, the curators described it as deliberately unattractive in terms of Assyrian ideas of female beauty, and perhaps designed to insult some specific female figure.
The statue is on permanent exhibition in the British Museum gallery 55, the Assyrian room, where it is simply labelled as "Limestone statue of a woman" and is dated as within the reign of Ashur-bel-kala.
Budge's 1902 English translation was:
- The palace of Ashur-bel-[kala, the king of hosts, the mighty king, the king of As]syria,
- the son of Tiglath-pileser, the king [of hosts], the mighty [king, the king of Assyria],
- the son of Ashur-resh-ishi, the king of hosts, [the mighty king, the king of] Assyria.
- These ... [among the rulers] of cities
- and ... upon ... [have I ... ].
- Whosoever shall alter my inscription or my name (which is written therein), may the god Za[..] and the gods
- of the land of Martu smite him with ... smiting!
- (Property of) the palace of Assur-bel-[kala, king of the universe, strong king, king of As]syria, son of Tiglath-pile- ser (I), king of [the universe], strong [king, king of Assyria], son of Assur-resa-isi (I) (who was) also king of the universe, [strong king, king of] Assyria: I made these sculptures in the provinces, cities and garrisons for titillation. As for the one who removes my inscriptions and my name: the divine Sibitti, the gods of the west, will afflict him with snake-bite.
- Grayson, Albert Kirk (1991), Assyrian rulers of the early first millennium BC, 1114-859 BC, Royal inscriptions of Mesopotamia., Assyrian Periods, 2, Toronto, ISBN 9780802059659
- Jack Cheng; Marian H. Feldman, eds. (2007). Ancient Near Eastern Art in Context: Studies in Honor of Irene J. Winter by Her Students. 26 of Culture and History of the Ancient Near East. BRILL. p. 385. ISBN 9789004157026.
- Bahrani, Zainab (1996), "Cultural Differentiation in Ancient Art", Oxford Art Journal, Oxford University Press, 19.2: 12–13, JSTOR 1360725
- E. A. Wallis Budge (2007) , Annals of the Kings of Assyria: The Cuneiform Texts with Translations, Transliterations, Etc.; Volume 1 of Ancient Egypt Series, ISBN 9780710310330
- British Museum catalogue entry BM 124963
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