Ancient Art of Mesopotamia Part 2

Last week, we talked about the ancient art of Mesopotamia, but there is so much that we didn’t get to.  Today, we’re going to pick up where we left off and explore some more of the beautiful artwork created by the ancient Mesopotamians.

Investiture of Zimri-Lim
Investiture of Zimri-Lim

From 2,000 to 1,500 BCE, Mesopotamia was in turmoil and most of the art created was small, meant for the home, and were religious or depicted current events. One artwork, the Investiture of Zimri-Lim, however, shows that there were some large-scale artworks being created. The aforementioned artwork is a fresco meant to decorate an entire palace wall. This fresco is religious and depicts some royal symbols and figures.

In the following centuries, writing clearly took a priority over the artwork, but small carvings very often adorned records and stories. From 1,500 to 600 BCE, a new style began to emerge. Whereas previous eras favored more simplistic figures, the statues and carvings of this time period were highly detailed. The animals and humans portrayed were often stiff but intricately decorated. Rather than being carved from stone or made from clay, small statues and carvings in this period were made from bronze and ivory.


Gate of Ishtar
The Gate of Ishtar

For the century after this period, it was popular to decorate the city walls with colorful brickwork and carvings depicting realistic animals and mythical creatures. The insides of important buildings were also decorated with colorful and bright glazed bricks. One stunning example of this type of artwork is the Gate of Ishtar, which protected the city of Babylon.

With the founding of Islam, artwork in the region shifted to be decorative for buildings and representing the beautiful geometric patterns that Islamic art is known for. Some mosques also were decorated with natural images, such as trees. Muslim artists also created colorful, multi-color paintings on clay or stucco, or carved on wood. While much of their artwork from this time had been lost or is buried beneath modern-day cities, some small pieces of art have survived where they were traded around the ancient world.

Thank you for joining us again to continue exploring the art history of ancient Mesopotamia!

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