Shopping cart (0 items € 0)
Go Back

Sumerian terra-cotta demon to ward of evil, made soon after 2000 BC

[Humbaba, demon guardian of the Forest of Cedars].
[Southern Mesopotamia, ca. 1950/1650 BC]. Terra-cotta plaque with a full figure in relief (10 x 5.5 x 1.5 cm).
€ 2,950
A terra-cotta plaque with a full-length, frontal nude figure of the male demon or ogre Humbaba, also known as Huwawa, guardian of the Forest of Cedars in the realm of the Sumerian gods, which some versions of the epic situate in Elam. The figure itself is about 9 cm tall. Humbaba is best known from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, an historical King of Uruk in Sumer (southern Mesopotamia, now in Iraq) sometime before 2500 BC. The legends of Gilgamesh's adventures were established shortly before 2000 BC, and the present figure dates soon after that. Gilgamesh decided to gain fame by boldly entering the realm of the gods to kill Humbaba and cut down many of the sacred cedars. He took along his more reluctant companion Enkidu. When they meet Humbaba they are terrified, but after an epic battle and with the help of the sun-god Shamash they defeat him. At Enkidu's urging, Gilgamesh cuts off Humbaba's head, but as he dies Humbaba curses Enkidu. They fell and take home many of the cedars, including the largest and most magnificent one, but Enkidu dies as a result of Humbaba's curse.
In Sumer, where Gilgamesh was regarded as a hero, Humbaba is generally depicted as hideous and terrifying: a nude figure with a grotesque grimacing face and bandy legs, as in the present example. The best known such figure, at the British Museum, shows more detail in the face, but less in the body. Plaques with full-length figures of Humbaba are rarer than plaques with his head alone.
Inevitably with some loss of detail in places, but still in good condition, with even the feet partly preserved. Cf. J. Black & A. Green, Gods, demons and symbols of ancient Mesopotamia, p. 106 (the British Museum example, dated to the period 2000-1600 BC); Sarah Graff, Humbaba/Huwawa (PhD thesis, Institute of Fine Arts, New York, 2012); for the legend: Andrew George, The Babylonian Gilgamesh (2003).
Order Inquire Terms of sale

Related Subjects:

Art & architecture  >  Art & Art History
Asia  >  West Asia
History, law & philosophy  >  Archaeology & Classical Antiquity
Middle east & islamic world  >  Central & West Asia