Magazine article School Arts

Sculpting Human Form: Carved Ivory

Magazine article School Arts

Sculpting Human Form: Carved Ivory

Article excerpt

Statuette of Worshiper, Iraq or Western Iran, Late eighth century he. Ivory; 7 1s/I6 x 2 5/8"; diam. 1 5/8", (20 x 7 cm; diam. 4 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Warner L. Atkins, 195.5.70.

About the Art

This ivory statuette of a worshiper may be small, but it is monumental in its expressiveness and in the evident skill of the carver. Religious offerings were important in ancient Mesopotamia and frequently dedicated in temples and shrines. In this piece, the individual is depicted as a worshiper in the act of prayer with his hands clasped and his head slightly inclined toward his deity.

The carving of ivory was a highly skilled trade in ancient Mesopotamian cultures, and this piece is an excellent and rare example of sculpture-in-the-round. This exquisite statuette was most likely produced in a royal workshop. The sculptor has captured the subtle expression and the even proportions of the subject. The statuette's expressive face with thoughtful eyes and pious expression further highlight the skill of the carver. The delicacy of the carving can be seen in the rendering of the statuette's hair, dress, and beard. His fringed shawl and ankle-length robe, which most likely originally featured gold plaquettes sewn onto the fabric, were signs of power and wealth. The geometric pattern of the robe contrasts with the wavy pattern of the fringed shawl.

About the Culture

The cradle of Western civilization is often thought to have been ancient Mesopotamia (literally "between rivers"). This area, known as the Fertile Crescent, encompassed what is today Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. …

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