Touring an Assyrian Palace at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Since the recent announcement of the travel ban here in the United States, a number of museums in New York City have found several ways to show dissent or show solidarity with people from the seven countries affected by the ban. For example, the Museum of Modern Art has a special exhibition of art by Muslim artists from the countries included in the travel ban. The Museum of the City of New York has focused on curating images of activism in the city, such as the use of the #activistny hashtag on Instagram, as part of an ongoing exhibition titled Activist New York. MCNY also has a new photography exhibition opening soon titled Muslim in New York.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a rich collection of art from Muslim countries, as well as other art from the ancient world that comes from the countries included in the ban. The Met programming has been more subtle than other NYC museums in this respect, but there is always great art on display from the ancient Middle East and historical Islamic world. And the museum regularly offers a tour of those galleries called Arts of the Islamic World.

Today, I thought I would take you on a tour of one of my favorite galleries in this part of the museum, Gallery 401. This gallery present carved stone reliefs from the palace of Ashurnasirpal II, who ruled over the Assyrian empire (located in modern-day Iraq) from 883 to 859 B.C. Although the reliefs from a variety of locations within the palace originally, they are displayed as a single reception room with a high ceiling.

The first thing you are likely to notice as you enter the room are the statues on either side of the entrance – a winged bull and a winged lion, each with human heads.



There are also some magnificent reliefs along the other walls of the room. Here is just a sample of what you will see.








Although this isn’t a great photo of the reliefs, I thought the view of the group tour would give a better sense of the size of the room and the art.


If you get the chance to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I recommend that you explore this gallery in person – it’s worth the visit. The museum is located on Fifth Avenue at East 82nd Street.

14 thoughts on “Touring an Assyrian Palace at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    1. I’ve found it interesting how institutions that have previously not been as vocal about political issues are now gaining their voice in positive ways. In some cities, there might be significant backlash against it, but NYC embraces it.

  1. Isis were dynamiting this kind of thing in various cities in Iraq recently. Islam doesn’t allow either pictures or sculptures, only patterns, as far as I am aware. They clearly had no respect for the fantastic workmanship in these carvings.

    1. It is tragic the historical artifacts and art that has been destroyed by Isis. It always feels a little strange to enjoy art that has been taken away from its original location, but I appreciate the opportunity to see it and learn about it – and it’s good to know that it has been preserved.

  2. shireen gheba

    I loved your blog so much that I want to reblog it. Also to share it on my Facebook pages. Thank you for such a wonderful blog post.

  3. I’m not surprised this is on your favourite list: lack of colour, detail and antiquity are a winning combination. I’ve been out of the news loop – I didn’t realise there was a travel ban. I don’t know whether to thank you for alerting me to it!

    1. Oh, Meg – I’m sorry to have been the one to break that news to you! So many of us Americans are ashamed to have the travel ban associated with the United States. We are happy that right now the courts have prevented the president from enforcing it, but it still is shameful. For New Yorkers, the ban is particularly at issue. So many of my friends and neighbors are immigrants or children of immigrants. It has been a very stressful time, and we are all finding our own ways to protest, resist, and create change.

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