Sumerian Door Catch

SKU CB.011
Circa

2700 BC to 2500 BC

Dimensions

10″ (25.4cm) high x 10″ (25.4cm) wide x 1.3″ (3.3cm) depth

Medium

Alabaster

Origin

Mesopotamia

Gallery Location

UK


 

Decorated door catch with central perforation and scenes in low relief divided in three registers. containing eleven human figures and two animals. The scene represented begins progressing from the lower right corner of the relief and continues evolving on the upper registers in boustrophedon and could be interpreted as a procession of animal and human figures which carry goods, culminating in the banquet scene on the upper register, where a seated couple in regal posture is drinking out of goblets. Lower register, from the viewer’s right to the left: Long-coated ram is being lead by a man, partially covered by standing behind the animal. In front of them a man holding a stock goad behind a large bull, lead through the muzzle by a third man. Both human and animal figures are represented in profile to the left. The three males sport clean shaved heads and are bare–chested, wearing the a kind of wraparound middle-calf skirt, held up by a narrow rounded belt, tied at the back. This type of skirt is well documented from other Sumerian works of art and is typically decorated with long spear- shaped fringes around the hem. This skirt seems to have been worn by all classes of men, distinction of social rank based exclusively upon the material employed for the garment in question. Middle register, from the viewer’s left to the right: two men are carrying a conical apparently very heavy container transported by hanging from a carrying pole on their shoulders. They are preceded by a group of three men, the first two carrying on both hands semispherical vessels while the third is carrying a large tray on his head. All figures are in profile to the right, clean-shaven and dressed in the same fashion as the figures on the lower register. The scene on the upper register can be approached, read and in consequence interpreted from both sides: The two principal figures, a male and a female, are seated on thrones with high backs. The man, dressed and groomed in exactly the same fashion as all the other males on the door catch, he is holding a cluster of… with his left hand while being given a conical shaped vessel (possibly a rhyton) by a man servant in the front, with a third man holding a fan is in attendance at his back. The composition of this group is reflected by the triad of a seated woman with a fan on her right hand who is being given a conical vessel by a female attendant in front of her, while a third woman is approaching from back carrying a … The seated lady is clothed in a large piece of material draped around her body over a skirt. This garment, very similar to a shawl, is characteristically edged with tassels. Both her female attendants are dressed in the exact same way as their mistress, with lengthy oblique coverings which leave their left hand somehow capped, at the same time permitting a greater mobility on the right hand, with the right shoulder being left visibly uncovered. This clothing covers their bodies all the way down almost to their ankles without any specific indication of closely outlining their physiques. Their hair is long, bonded in chignons at their nape. The represented couple are the protagonists of the scene and have been carved much grander in scale to the rest of the figures, as to denote their greater importance. Although all the males on this door catch come under the general characteristics which make them look truly similar to one another (portrayed clean-shaven, shorn- headed, bare-chested and bare-foot, the head in profile while the broad shouldered torso is carved as seen from the front) every single person has been carved with distinctive and singular facial characteristics, as to appear an individual. Sumer, was an historical region between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates corresponding to the actual territory of modern-day southern Iraq, inhabited by an ancient population which lasted from the year 6.000 BC until 2000 BC, when they were succeeded by the Akkadians, and later by the Babylonians. Sumerians invented the wheel, the writing, the clock with the sexagesimal number system, calculation based on arithmetic and geometry, the beer, and the agriculture with organized cultivation systems. Testimonies of this civilization are the large number of tables written in Cuneiform scripture and many graphic representations and sculptures. They didn’t call themselves “Sumerians”, as this was the name later given to them by the Akkadians; they named themselves “Ug sag-giga”, which literally translates into “the black-headed people “, assuming that black was referring to the color of their hair. The new society emerging in the early 3rd millennium was primarily dominated by a financially florid elite, whose desire for ostentation stimulated the arts, especially the minor arts and sculpture. In unison to or because of this social development, plaques decorated with historiated reliefs and drilled with a rectangular hole in the center were being created. Serving a dual purpose, as both decorative and votive, these plaques also had a functional role as door catches. The decoration of this plaque depicts a banquet scene, the most frequently illustrated theme at the time these reliefs were made. These banquets may have been like later Greek symposia with important ritual and social meanings. In all probability These liturgical banquets were the occasion of a communion with the god and seem to have been one of the main forms of worship during this period.? Technical execution, also the beginning of prospect, with figure in the background behind the ram

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