Decorative plaque, Nimrud (Iraq)

Decorative plaque
Nimrud, Iraq
Neo-Assyrian period, late 9th-8th cent. BCE
Ivory; 11.7 x 7.4cm
Inv. O.3009

During the early 1st millennium BCE, the art of ivory carving once again reached an acme in northern Syria and in the costal centers of Phoenicia. Hundreds of plaques have been unearthed in Assyrian palaces and official buildings at Nimrud, Khorsabad, Arslan Tash and Assur. They arrived there as diplomatic gifts, spoils of war or tribute that the Phoenician cities were forced to pay in exchange for relative economic autonomy in the Assyrian empire.

This refined example depicts a griffin in front of the Sacred Tree (now missing). The hybrid animal was considered a guardian of this symbol of universal order. Formerly, this plaque must have had a pendant with the same scene in reverse, to complete the composition symmetrically. The griffin has a pair of wings, in the Egyptian style, one of the details betraying a Phoenician hand in the Levantine production of Ivories.

Discover this masterpiece on the online museum catalogue Carmentis, in the book Masterpieces and in in the galleries Near East.