Founded by Ashur-nasir-pal II over the ruins of a previous city at the time when the Assyrian empire claimed an ambition for a universal kingdom, Kalhu had been one of the greatest urban planning projects made in antiquity. The annual military campaigns of Ashurnasirpal were very efficient and the vanquished peoples supplied the work force for his constructions.
The 120 x 200 m palace excavated by Layard included many rooms separated from the inner courtyards by mud brick walls. About 400 shallow bas-reliefs in gypsum served as a base for these painted walls.
On July 6, 1994, Christie's sold for £ 7.7M including premium an incomplete 183 x 117 x 6.4 cm bas-relief that had been presented by Layard to one of his sponsors. It displays a beardless eunuch and a winged bearded deity ready to serve the king, and has retained three-quarters of a standard cuneiform inscription recalling the achievements of the king supported by the gods. Layard had been authorized by the Grand Vizier to export his discoveries.
On October 31 in New York, Christie's sells as lot 101 a bas-relief 224 x 196 cm that includes the standard inscription mingled in the image. It is illustrated with a single full size standing figure in Egyptian profile, larger than life and complete. This winged bearded creature is busy anointing a tree of life. Its mirror image is known. The pair served to flank a gateway for which our bearded deity was somehow the guardian angel.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's. A digital technology enables to reconstruct the original colors, known by traces of pigments on some of the reliefs.
SOLD for $ 31M including premium