Description & Technical information

This extremely rare and highly artistic Sumerian vessel is boldly modelled, with the sides decorated in a repeated relief of a lion attacking a bull. This motif was first seen in the Sumerian repertoire in the Uruk period.
The animals are carved in low relief whilst the heads, turned to face the viewer, are fully three-dimensional. Such extraordinary high relief sculpture developed at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., when cities emerged across Mesopotamia. Vessels of this type have been frequently found in palaces or religious structures, which suggest that they had a special function in such settings. After cylinder seals, they are the most important source of pictorial information for the period. The pictures are drawn from the natural realm, often portraying an ordered world of domesticated animals or, alternatively as in the case, the very real and vivid threat of potentially hostile creatures such as the lion.

[1] The Cleveland Museum of Art; Bull Proccesion Cup, Sumerian, 3100 - 2900 BC, Iraq. Gray limestone, D7.70 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1982.1.

Date:  3100-2900 B.C.
Period:  Antiquity
Origin:  Mesopotamia
Medium: Steatite
Dimensions: 11.5 cm (4¹/₂ inches)
Provenance: Formerly in the collection of Professor Hans and Mrs Marie-Louise Erlenmeyer, Basel, acquired between 1943 and the early 1960s. 
Literature: Sotheby’s, Western Asiatic Cylinder Seals and Antiquities from the Erlenmeyer Collection (Part 1), London, Thursday 9th July 1992. 
Categories: Classical & Egyptian antiquities, Oriental and Asian Art, Sculpture