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Museum purchase, Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Income Fund and The Walter H. and Phyllis J. Shorenstein Foundation Fund
The mighty Assyrian empire dominated the Near East from Iran to Egypt from 883 to 626 BC, and its art, which ranks as one of the finest achievements of the ancient Mesopotamian world, exercised an important influence on the art of other cultures. Imposing relief sculpture, like this protective spirit from the walls of the palace of King Ashurnasirpal II, defined the classical style of the ancient Near East. Ashurnasirpal II lavished great attention on his royal palace, which was decorated with carved and painted stone reliefs illustrating historical narratives of the might and invincibility of Assyria. Other slabs had a religious or magical function. In this relief, a guardian divinity, or genius, protects the king, whose image originally stood between two winged figures. The idealized and highly political art of the Assyrians depicted the king and the human and divine members of his court with calm and dignity, since they symbolized Assyrian supremacy.