Someday, I hope I have enough money and time to go to Europe. I want to go to the Louvre to see these bad boys.
First, a little background on the lamassu. Lamassu are Mesopotamian protective deities or spirits. They were winged, man-bulls who were placed at city gates to protect the city. In some cases, they were carved into clay tablets to be buried at home entryways to protect individual households. They aren’t demons, they are simply creatures your would want on your side if you were being attacked or invaded.
This particular lamassu was created during the rule of the Assyrians; they were in charge after the Babylonians and Hittites fell from power. These guys were placed at the gates of Sargon II’s palace. They were suppose to ward off the king’s enemies (mortal and immortal). They’re huge — they measure in at 13′ 10″ high. The feat of getting the lamassu into place was so incredible that Sargon’s successors created reliefs in their palace showing men dragging the lamassu into place using ropes and sledges.
They are carved partially in the round, but the artist created them as high reliefs. From the front, you see the animal at rest with both hooves firmly on the ground. From the side, you see the animal in motion. This means that the lamassu, when viewed in totality, has five legs. This provided the popular and descriptive composite view so popular with ancient man.
My opinion? Just how cool are these guys? They’re intimidating, but not grotesque. I mean, they could simply step on you if they wanted to stop you. They’re so detailed too. I love how intricate they are, especially the beard. Oh, and I think the wrap around horns are awesome. It’s smart that they kept them inline with the rest of the head, if they had protruded, they probably would have gotten broken off by vandals or just due to time passing. Keeping everything compact made it possible for the entire sculpture to stay relatively intact over the course of thousands of years. Dear Winged Bullman, I think you’re rad. (I also think Pegasus from the Disney version of Hercules is rad. I like mystical winged creatures, I guess.)