Mesopotamian Art What is it? Features and Monuments

Currently, Mesopotamian art is rare to see, both because of the geographical situation in which it is found and because of the limited movement of the works that existed at the time in the displacement of this style of art.

What is Mesopotamian art?

Mesopotamian art is considered the geographic and chronological segmentation that art history undergoes during the Ancient Age in Mesopotamia. It refers to the expressions and artistic representations that the cultures of the Mesopotan peoples possessed, which developed on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and then ended up in the Persian Gulf, in the Arabian peninsula in approximately 4000 BC. C. This earthly paradise welcomed a number of peoples who inhabited it: The Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites, Chaldeans, Medes and Persians, among others, for this reason we find various artistic stages determined by the diversification of peoples that dominated this territory.

This style of art developed in the Neolithic and spanned until Babylon’s defeat in 539 BC.

From the Neolithic until the fall of Babylon, various things developed, such as the Akkadian, Babylonian, Sumerian, Casita, Assyrian and Hurrian culture and civilization. Thanks to the emergence of various cultures and the development that this entailed, various materials and artisanal and artistic techniques emerged, in addition to the stylistic development gave rise to various genres, forms and themes used in other periods.

Mesopotamia was a land that lacked certain materials such as wood, stone and metals, but was rich in clay, among other materials, favoring the manufacture of bricks, made with adobe, a mixture of clay and straw and glass.

Mesopotamia was a very conflictive area politically, socially and artistically. Its history is parallel to Egypt, beginning around the year 3000 a. C. and its rivers, like in Egypt, were fundamental for its development.

This civilization was based on a theocratic political system, dependent on the priests, that is why the artistic manifestations responded to the interests of the State and the religious cult, which did not limit its originality and artistic value.

Factors that classified Mesopotan art

Three factors have been considered to classify Mesopotamian art:

  • The war was a constant concern, which determined that much of the art was dedicated to the glorification of military victories.
  • Religion had a very important role in the affairs of the State, reason why primary importance was given to religious buildings. Much of the sculptures were for spiritual purposes.
  • The influence of the natural environment. Being a civilization that lacked some construction materials, such as stones or wood, they had to use brick and adobe in their constructions -mix made from clay mud-, which are shorter materials. That is why there are so few vestiges of this culture.

Mesopotamian art architecture

The architecture was difficult at this time since, due to the geographical location, they had few materials to carry out, that is, stone had a very scarce existence in those places and clay was abundant. For this reason, it is why the Mesopotamians had a preference for brick and adobe to form the basis of architecture.

A large part of this architecture was the lintel (which used wooden beams), the vault and the arch, which although they were more common in Egyptian art, in Mesopotamian art these three elements can also be observed. The most striking difference between Egyptian art and this style of art was the little importance that they gave to funeral buildings and only two types of buildings were developed and highlighted, the temple and the palace.

Main Monuments in Mesopotamian art

The Temple : It consists of a large walled courtyard that in the space corresponding to one of its minor sides carries what will be its most characteristic element: the Ziggurat, which is a square tower with several staggered floors, on whose top is the sanctuary . The faces are oriented towards the four cardinal points and the different levels are climbed by means of a ramp that surrounds the four sides, or by two symmetrical stairs that climb the front or the sides, using for their construction the richest materials such as marble, alabaster, lapis lazuli, oreo and cedar.

The Palace : It did not have a specific form, it was a series of prismatic buildings of different sizes linked together by corridors, galleries and corridors with wide intermediate patios and with walls around them. It consisted of a simple quadrangular construction with a central patio through which it received light and ventilation. The interior walls were decorated with fresco paintings on lime plaster, or with brightly colored enamel bricks and reliefs. Some of the most important palaces were those of Nineveh, Korsabaad and Nimrud.

The Walls:  They were built to guard the cities, with vertical walls and cut at right angles, reinforced from section to section by square towers. The passage was made through fortified gates. The passage of these doors was a half-barrel vault, on both sides the usual protective statues were placed.

The Tombs:   the tomb is not of great architectural interest, since it is a simple hypogeum with a brick vault and several chambers, which is manifested outside by a small monument of no artistic value. In its interior a very rich funeral trousseau has been found: corpses of ladies, musicians, servants, coachmen and guards immolated in large numbers that reveal the barbarous funeral customs of these towns.

Mesopotamian art pottery

Since the beginning of the Neolithic period, ceramics were the main element that made the difference between material cultures, and with it different typological transformations could be observed, which were sometimes very delicate and ingenious, and with this the origin of the pieces and the archaeological context they had.

Normally, the use that this type of figures had was simply containers for the transport and preservation of various kinds of drinks and food. It was very useful since a productive economy developed that made trade over great distances.

Mesopotamian Metallurgy

During the middle of the 3rd century BC. C. the development and flourishing of metallurgy was obtained. Centuries ago, objects that needed metal were manufactured through metallic elements found in nature. However, with the flourishing of metallurgy in the 3rd century BC, other techniques for the acquisition of metallic and mineral materials appeared. In addition, with these new techniques, precious metals appeared, such as silver and gold, lead and especially copper, which stood out as the main material used and which shortly after mixing with tin or arsenic for the manufacture of bronze, which stood out for its resistance .

Mesopotamian art architecture

The architecture was difficult at this time since, due to the geographical location, they had few materials to carry out, that is, stone had a very scarce existence in those places and clay was abundant. For this reason, it is why the Mesopotamians had a preference for brick and adobe to form the basis of architecture.

In Mesopotan art a large part of this architecture was the lintel (which used wooden beams), the vault and the arch, which although they were more common in Egyptian art, in Mesopotamian art these three elements can also be observed. The most striking difference between Egyptian art and this style of art was the little importance that they gave to funeral buildings and only two types of buildings were developed and highlighted, the temple and the palace.

Mesopotamian sculpture

In the absence of a hard base, such as stone, lower Mesopotamia turned sculpture into a high-quality and luxury product that was normally subject to long-distance trade, and with it came the copra of various products such as gemstones. Indian, African Ivory or Nordic Amber. As the Mesopotamian sculpture is luxurious and of high quality, only a few Mesopotamian kings were able to order statues. Although it is true that the cylindrical stamps were widely used as identity stamps in which they engraved their own relief.

Although Mesopotamian sculpture was somewhat scarce, it had some main characteristics such as the robustness and strength that the figures had, the most represented figures were human figures, sometimes representing sovereigns, other gods, other officials, etc., but always individualized people, it seeks to replace the person rather than represent it. For this reason, the head and face appear out of proportion in relation to the rest of the figure.

Human representations are totally indifferent to reality, without any resemblance, while animal representations have greater realism and fidelity to the real image.

Mesopotamian art painting

A distinction can be made between painting and relief:

Characteristics of the painting: It was strictly decorative, being used to embellish the architecture. It lacks perspective, and is aromatically poor, using only white, blue, and red. The technique used was tempera, and can be seen in decorative mosaics or tiles. The themes were scenes of wars and ritual sacrifices with great realism. Are represented geometric figures, peoples, animals and monsters. It is used in home decoration, and as a prominent feature was that shadows were not represented.

Characteristics of the relief:  They were frequent in the platelets or narrative stelae and some of these stelae have cuneiform texts. They are detailed and detailed works, which reflected a remarkable naturalism. In these works a separation of divine from human affairs can be distinguished. The king is captured in scenes of war, banquets or hunting, appearing a figure always appears upright, with which they wanted to highlight his power.

Although the most used techniques in this style of painting were mosaics and inlaid, many of these great works could be found in the tombs of Ur In addition, the vitrified brick was used for decorative purposes for many constructions and even to make the relief of many figures.

 

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