Lamassu

DEFINITION

A large carved stone sculpture of a sacred, winged bull with a man's head. The head is invariably bearded, because important Mesopotamian men always wore long beards. The top of the head is phallic, and sometimes bears the king's crown. Lamassu means "protective spirit" in Akkadian, and is also the plural form. Lamassu were placed on either side of the doorways of Assyrian palaces, and of gateways to cities to protect against evil spirits, and impress the neighbors. However it is displayed in a museum, in its original context, a lamassu is the guardian of a doorway, integral with a wall. For this reason, it is not an entirely freestanding sculpture. It was carved as if it were two reliefs joined at right angles. These guys always have five legs, because that's the way lamassu can present the correct number of legs when seen from each of the two points of view ? two legs when seen from the front, and four when seen from the side. Additionally, the side view shows legs in motion, whild the frontal view shows the creature at rest.Examples:Mesopotamia, Palace of King Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria, Nimrud, entrance to the East suite, One of a Pair of Lamassu, c. 875 BCE, carved stone, British Museum, London. See a detail of the head, and a detail of the body and legs.Mesopotamian, Palace of King Ashurnasirpal II of Assyria, Nimrud, Throne Room at Nimrud , c. 875 BCE, in a 19th century rendering. Painted lamassu flank the doorway. The walls bear painted limestone relief friezes.

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