Assyrian Art

1520 BC - 612 BC


The Assyrians derived their art, as they did so many other cultural elements, from the Babylonians.  The Assyrians are the original people of what is known today as Iraq and what archaeologists refer to as Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia was believed to be the Biblical Garden of Eden. An Assyrian artistic style different from that of Babylonian art began to appear c.1500 B.C. The characteristic Assyrian art form was monumental stone carvings and carved stone reliefs. Assyrian Art served many functions, such as communicating religious legends, parables and history to the commoners. According to history scholar John C. Van Dyke "As in Egypt, there were two motives for art—illustration and decoration. Religion, as we have seen, hardly obtained at all. The king attracted the greatest attention. The countless bas-reliefs, cut on soft stone slabs, were pages from the history of the monarch in peace and war, in council, in the chase, or in processional rites. Beside him and around him his officers came in for a share of the background glory. Occasionally the common people had representations of their lives and their pursuits, but the main subject of all the valley art was the king and his doings. Sculpture and painting were largely illustrations accompanying a history written in the ever-present cuneiform characters."


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References - HISTORY OF PAINTING by John C. Van Dyke