August 6, 2015

Assyrian Patterns at the Hood Museum of Art

A wonderful aspect of seeing the same works of art over and over again is that familiarity enables seeing elements that might be overlooked at first. The Hood Museum of Art in Hanover, NH has a group of Assyrian reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud. A few years ago I focused on the beautiful feet in these reliefs, a post you can see here. The grace of the long toes in the image above give an idea why I was so taken with these sculpted feet. The reliefs are rich in detail, in patterns of clothing, hair, and decorative elements; in patterns of cuneiform text.

Decorating one slab are these fluid shapes, a representation of a date palm.

The fringes of clothing are like flowing waters.

Feathers from the wings of Genii are delicately incised in repeating lines.

The wings of another Genie have more complex layerings of shapes, but less delicate carving.

The patterns of cuneiform flow across the surface of the reliefs.

The text extolls the King and his power and reach; visually, the incised cuneiform adds a frantic energy to the carved surfaces.

I love the varied patterns in the hair and beard of this Genie: curving, flowing, tightly curled.

Even human anatomy becomes an elegant design, as lines arabesque to describe form.

Assyrian relief from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal, 883-859 BCE; image courtesy Wikimedia.

When looking at the entire slab, I am aware of the repeated rhythms––of arms upraised, of feet moving forward, of draped clothing––which are enhanced by the details of pattern.


  1. Such rhythm! Thanks for the view, Altoon.

  2. I always envy your access to such fascinating museums, galleries etc. I so enjoy how you share them and your thoughts about them.

  3. It's good to know that my museum visits are appreciated. Thanks, Lauren and Lisa.

    1. Your appreciation of what-you're-seeing, and subsequent efforts to share, are the best parts.
      We all need the demonstrations of how to notice, how to see.

    2. Thanks, JBS. Writing these posts helps me to see more.

  4. Great to see these Altoon..and didn't !! know you had a blog..Just 'subscribed' and
    looking forward..All best..Julie

    1. Thanks, Julie; I hope you enjoy the blog, which is very eclectic.