Jun. 9th, 2010

theatokos: (Default)
What is it about art? Some pieces sing to us. Some pieces please our brains with their skill, but don't speak to our souls. Some pieces feel alive, others dead. It makes no sense; it's part of the mystery of the world we live in.

When I got to the British Museum I expected (well, I had surprisingly few expectations!) to be swept away by the Greeks and the Egyptians. But the Egyptians, while fascinating, didn't do it for me at all. The Greeks were beautiful, sublimely so. The mosaics and busts were exquisite. I really felt like the faces captured and contained a part of the soul of the person depicted. How can stone feel so alive?? The artistry is truly breathtaking.

One thing that humbled my modern person was how well these ancient - 2000, 3000 years old - pieces hold up. Not only are the works still intact or the details still there, but the artistry can still speak to us. What have we created that will still hold up and speak in 2000 years? Anything? I'm not sure.

What I absolutely never expected was to be moved at my very core by the Assyrian statuary and reliefs.

In college I took an ancient history class that covered the Akkadians, Assyrians, Egyptians, etc, but honestly I remember next to nothing. I have a loose understanding of the chronology, but a slightly better understanding of the myth and religious stuff. Still. I walked around a corner and BAM. Enormous winged lions with male bearded faces flanking a recreation of even taller cedar doors. The lion creatures were guardians of the gates and I barely came up to the hooves.




(forgive the photos, they were taken with my iphone and barely capture the art)

Here is a guardian of a temple of Ishtar:


I loved the reliefs of the bird-headed guardians:

This one is next to the tree of life




I was even moved by the reliefs of the lion hunt:



What's hard to see in all these pictures is that all the items have cuniform writing all over them. I had seen pictures of cuniform and learn about it (my last boss was an Egyptologist who could read hieroglyphs and even some cuniform), and never thought twice about it. But in person I found the script beautiful:


I can't explain why these stone items spoke so profoundly to me. Whatever magic is present in these items is equally present in the Greek busts and statues. But as much as I'd like to be enraptured by the Greeks it's just not for me. Usually I am more drawn to the green, forest, ocean loving peoples: the Celtic world speaks deeply to me, some of the Norse/Scandanavian stuff (though more intellectually than spiritually), the Finns intrigue me, and I am very partial to Shinto and Japanese ideas of nature. Hindu and yoga stuff has lately been taking a primary place in my mind, and of course there's always the Orthodox Christian world, though Christianity is quickly losing its appeal to me. That an ancient Mesopotamian culture would bowl me over like this..... well, every day a new adventure.

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October 2010

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