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Fragment of a Wall Relief : Head of a Winged Protective Spirit (883-859 BCE)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Fragment of a Wall Relief : Head of a Winged Protective Spirit (883-859 BCE).

About the Work

Title : Fragment of a Wall Relief : Head of a Winged Protective Spirit
Year : 883-859 BCE
Medium : Alabaster
Dimensions : 65.5 cm h x 50.5 cm w x 10 cm d (25 13/16 x 19 7/8 x 3 15/16 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“Representing the head of a winged genie, or protective spirit, this relief fragment was part of the wall decoration of the throne room of King Ashurnasirpal II’s Northwest Palace at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) in Iraq.”

This genie was placed in the throne as a protection, much like an evil eye. To this effect, the piece alludes to ancient rituals and superstitions people followed.

The rest of the relief that this piece belongs to glorified the king. Representations of battle and the victories of the king were depicted onto the walls.

Other Details

Fragment of a Wall Relief : Head of a Winged Protective Spirit is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 3460. It is part of the museum’s collection of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art – Art of the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East. The piece has been housed at the  Museum since 1940.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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