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Home > Auctions > 25th May 2021 > Neo-Sumerian Head of a Nobleman

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LOT 0176

GBP (£) 30,000 - 40,000
EUR (€) 34,880 - 46,500
USD ($) 42,080 - 56,100

Opening Bid
£27,000 (EUR 31,388; USD 37,870) (+bp*)

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Neo-Sumerian Head of a Nobleman

3rd-2nd millennium BC

A head of a nobleman or prince, carved in lapis lazuli; facial features formed in a stylised but semi-realistic fashion, featuring a long thin nose, large almond-shaped eyes, delicate and sensual lips and long ears ornamented with earrings; mounted on a custom-made display stand. 273 grams total, 18.5cm including stand (7 1/4"). Fine condition.

Property of a Kensington lady; acquired Austria in 1993; previously in the Trimbacher collection; formerly acquired in Germany in 1980; accompanied by an archaeological expertise by Dr. Raffaele D’Amato; this lot has been checked against the Interpol Database of stolen works of art and is accompanied by AIAD certificate number no.10581-173401.

Cf. A similar head from Lagash in the Louvre, accession number AO 4351, representing a man with shaven head; cf. the portrait of Gudea, King of Lagash (circa 2100-2090 BC) preserved in the MET, accession number 49.26, from Girsu (modern Tello); see a male head in white limestone in Berlin, Staatliche Museen, in Moortgat, A., The Art of Ancient Mesopotamia, London, New York, 1969, figs.168, 169.

This incredible statuette head presents strong similarities with the head of a statuette in Louvre, for style and shape. The similarity of the eyes and the shape of the nose with the Louvre statuette is extraordinary and, as on another statue of Ur-Ningirsu, son of King Gudea, one side of the upper lip is higher than the other side. The striking similarities with Ur-Ningirsu and with the Louvre statuette (recently identified as a possible portrait of the same person), allows for the hypothesis that our head belongs to a portrait of a royal member of the Gudea family. Another element which shows similar features with the royal family of Lagash is the tip of the nose, which appears to be rounded if seen on the front and slightly squared-off when viewed from the side. Rarely does Sumerian statuary survive with coloured pigment, but the remains of blue colouration and lapis lazuli around the eyes suggests that the head may have originally featured light blue and blue pigments around the eyes for emphasis. The baldness of the head indicates that the figure possibly represents a prince-priest.