Monday, November 18, 2019

A WONDER T0 BEHOLD: Craftsmanship and the Creation of BABYLON'S ISHTAR GATE: By Polly Guerin

Reconstructed panel of bricks with a Striding Lion
A little known treasure, and one of my favorites, is The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW). It's fascinating exhibition A WONDER TO BEHOLD: CRAFTSMANSHIP and the CREATION OF BABYLON'S ISHTAR GATE, is a new venue for understanding the most spectacular achievement of the ancient world. On view through May 24, 2020 at 15 East 84th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenue, the exhibition is a time capsule of ancient history with Free Admission. It will illuminate your vision of the spectacular and the extraordinary achievements of old-world craftsmanship. It features 180 objects that bring to life the masterful craftsmanship and ancient beliefs that transformed clay, minerals, and organic materials--seen as magical potent substances---into this powerful monument. Image: Reconstructed panel of bricks with a striding lion. Neo-Babylonian period (reign of Nebuchadnezzer 11, 604-562 BCE). WONDER OF THE ANCIENT WORLD is an eye-popping demonstration of how the master craftspeople who designed and built the Ishtar Gate and its Processional Way were not merely skilled technicians, though they were certainly that, but also artists, historians, and ritual practitioners known as "experts"(ummanu).  They were capable of creating artworks that manifested divine powers on Earth, and the Ishtar Gate, offering entry into the imperial city of Babylon. The exhibition opens with an introduction to the gateway with a variety of archival drawings, photographs, and objects that demonstrate the immense  of this undertaking.  A 1901 watercolor by archaeologist Walter Andrae, for example, shows the Babylonian system of fitters' marks that he deciphered, revealing the painstaking process through which the monument was created. This process began by marking out the design on a wall of unadorned bricks, and continued with he molding, glazing, and baking of each individual bricks before fitting them together, a task that is something like designing and assembling an intricate puzzle.

Replica of the Ishtar Gate at the Berlin State Museum
      Travelers to Ancient Babylon were met with an astonishing sight--a gate nearly 50 feet high and 100 feet wide--made of jeweled glazed bricks and adorned with bas-relief lions, dragons and young bulls believed to be powerful beings associated with the king's role as protector of the people. The beasts are depicted in bold relief, projecting the space of the viewer, as they intimidated unwelcome visitors while protecting the inhabitants. A colossal undertaking it was built over the course of King Nebuchadnezzar 11 reign,
         The Ishtar Gate (named in honor of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar, goddess of fertility, love and war, was at the epicenter of a major empire that extended from present day Iran to Egypt. In its final and most spectacular phase, imagine the stunning edifice, the monument was built with brilliantly glazed bricks, molded in relief to depict hundreds of dragons, lions, and bulls--all set against a background  the color of Lapis Lazuli.        
Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar
Treasures within the exhibit include a cuneiform tablet from the Middle Babylonian Period (ca, 1300-1200 BCE) which records a recipe for making red glass that sheds light on the secret alchemical knowledge of ancient Middle Eastern craftspeople, while an Egyptian glass vessel from (ca. 1400-1300 BCE) showcases the range of brilliant colors that these experts were able to achieve.
      The Institute for the Study of the Ancient  World (ISAW) is an independent research center within NYU for advanced scholarly research and graduate education with the aim of forming a new generation of scholars who will enter the global academic community and become intellectual leaders. GALLERY HOURS: Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm and Friday from 11an to 8 pm with free guided tour at 6pm.
      TA TA DARLINGS!!! This exhibit is a golden opportunity to realize the tremendous talent and production of the ancient world's craftsmen, It's a "Must See!" cultural experience. Send fan mail to Visit Polly's other Blogs on


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