Guides to Fine Arts Like Painting, Designing, Architecture, Sculpture, Photography and More

ASSYRIA.

The remains of Assyrian painting are so few that they scarcely serve any other purpose than to prove that the Assyrians were accustomed to decorate their walls with pictures. Sometimes the walls were prepared with plaster, and the designs were painted on that; in other cases the painting was done upon the brick itself. The paintings on plaster were usually on the inner walls, and many of these which have been discovered during the excavations have disappeared when exposed to the air after their long burial from the sight and knowledge of the world.

Speaking of these pictures, the writer on art, J. Oppert, says that some paintings were found in the Palace of Sargon; they represented gods, lions, rosettes, and various other designs; but when he reached Nineveh, one year after these discoveries, the pictures had all disappeared—the colors which had been buried twenty-five hundred years lasted but a few days after they were uncovered.

 
Fragment of an Assyrian Tile-painting.

Assyrian tile-painting was more durable than the wall-painting; but in all the excavations that have been made these have been found only in fragments, and from these fragments no complete picture has been put together. The largest one was found at Nimrud, and our illustration is taken from it. It represents a king, as we know by the tiara he wears, and two servants who follow him. The pictures to which the existing fragments belong could not have been large: the figures in our picture are but nine inches high. A few pieces have been found which must have belonged to larger pictures, and there is one which shows a part of a face belonging to a figure at least three feet high; but this is very unusual.

The Assyrian paintings have a broad outline which is of a lighter color than the rest of the picture; it is generally white or yellow. There are very few colors used in them. This does not accord with our notions of the dresses and stuffs of the Assyrians, for we suppose that they were rich and varied in color—probably they had so few pigments that they could not represent in their paintings all the colors they knew.

No one can give a very satisfactory account of Assyrian painting; but, judging from the little of it which remains, and from the immense number of Assyrian sculptures which exist, we may conclude that the chief aim of Assyrian artists was to represent each object they saw with absolute realism. The Dutch painters were remarkable for this trait and for the patient attention which they gave to the details of their work, and for this reason Oppert has called the Assyrians the Dutchmen of antiquity.

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