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Home > Auctions > 27th May 2015 > Western Asiatic Sumerian Demon Head

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LOT 1269

Sold for (Inc. bp): £14,880

2500-2100 BC
4 1/4" (293 grams, 11cm).

A carved stone head with horns above the ears and inlaid eyes; accompanied by a copy of an old scholarly note, typed and signed by W.G. Lambert, late Professor of Assyriology, University of Birmingham, 1970-1993, which states: "Ancient Near Eastern Demon Head in Black Stone. 61 x 29 x 68mm. The front gives the face in full detail, the back in contrast is smooth and plain. The demon has a smiling face, with chin, lips and nose rendered fully naturalistic. The eyes are inlaid with shell and lapis in bitunen [sic] surround. They are large. The brows join above the nose are [sic] are also inlaid. The ears are those of a quadruped and the bases of horns appear above the ears. The top of the head is smooth. This comes from central Mesopotamia or a neighbouring area and dates to c. 2500-2100 B.C. It is an extremely rare item for size and quality of workmanship. The nose has a little damage, otherwise the piece is in very good condition and is an important addition to art of its period and area."; mounted on a custom-made stand. Accompanied by an Art Loss Register certificate.

Property of a North London collector; acquired in the 1970s.

Bulls and lions in quasi-human pose have been known in the ancient Near East since the early third millennium BC. They have been interpreted as personifying the elementary principles of world order. The figure of the "bull-man" is first seen on cylinder seals of the Early Dynastic Period (3000 - 2500 BC) where he is shown with human head and torso but with taurine horns, lower body and legs. The figure is often associated with a human hero figure engaged in some sort of contest of strength. In the Old Babylonian Period (1950 - 1651 BC) the bull-man appears as a companion of the sun god Shamash. In later periods the bull-man appears as one of a repertoire of generally beneficent creatures that were placed within buildings as a barrier to evil.